24 Oct 2012

Mismanaged religious resources

In this Circle of Blue interview (via RM), Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and the Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD), says:
Q: There is a lot of talk about pricing water and valuing water to promote conservation and efficiency. What’s the most valuable thing we can do nationally to bring attention to water and these big challenges?

Pat Mulroy: You know, I’ve given obviously — especially over the last, well since the economic downturn — a lot of thought over water pricing. And we in the water business stand back, and we become amazed that somebody is willing to pay $US 80, $US 90, $US 100 for their cable bill, to pay that much for their cell phone bill, but they’re not willing to pay $14.90 for their water bill. And I have sat through any number of discussions in this country that I think are foundational to why that is: people believe that water is a basic human right, and so they don’t view it in the same — and it’s a visceral reaction, I don’t think very many people have intellectualized that, I think it’s a visceral reaction — they feel you owe them that water supply. What they’re paying for is the infrastructure. Anybody in southern Nevada, if they wanted to, and this has been one of the greatest, one of my tag lines going around the community during rate increases: “Yeah, you have a basic human right to water. Here’s your bucket, you can go down to Lake Mead, and you can take all the water out of Lake Mead that you want. But you don’t have the basic human right to have that water treated to an absolute guaranteed safe standard, delivered to your home in whatever quantities you want to use.”

So water lives in two universes. It lives in this real gray, difficult-to-quantify, emotional realm of, “I can’t live without it, so I have a right to it.” And this, “We’ve commoditized it.” So I push back every time somebody wants to put dollar values on the resource of water. We put a dollar value on the infrastructure of water. We have to find a new way to describe the value of the resource itself. And I’ve been looking for that magic way to describe it, and I haven’t found it yet. And so, these economic conversations about water, you know, I hear water is the next century’s gold, and I just cringe. I mean, these are people who only understand the economic silo, and they don’t understand the fiber and the character of the resource they’re talking about. We can live without oil. We can live without gas. We wouldn’t like it, but we could live without electricity. We can survive as individuals — we can’t survive without water. So it takes on a whole different dimension. It’s embedded in our religions, it’s embedded in everything we do. So the challenge to me is finding that new description of what that value of water is. And it’s got to be described in human terms.
Hey Pat, I've got some magic for you. Water is a scarce natural resource, and we need to limit demand to within sustainable supplies. If we use too much of this "religious, human" element, then we're screwed.

You've had 20 years to get this right, but you're still challenged, so I'll help you out.

If you want to build a human religious house in Las Vegas (a church or mosque, say), then you need to pay for land, right? You need to pay a market price for land, a price that reflects the competing demands for the use of that land. Well, do you bitch and moan about how expensive it is? Do you ask for that land for free? No, you PAY FOR IT because it's valuable to you. Then you build your church or mosque and worship away.

It's the same with water. If you want scarce water, then PAY FOR IT. Water managers who give away that scarce resource for free are not water managers, they are water mismanagers, and the only result you can predict is misallocation of scarce resources and a future without the water we need.



  1. What about this? http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/1699104514001/


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