18 Jun 2014

One simple fix for California's drought

(via DA) I read that the Pacific Institute and NRDC have proposed "five simple fixes for California's drought." Putting aside the incorrect wording (the truth is that Nature makes a drought, but Man makes a shortage), I offered the following comment:
This typical, top-down list of to dos will accomplish nothing, as it requires (1) farmers to spend $100 to save $5 of water and/or (2) homeowners to spend hours on a leak that costs them $2.25 per year.

As usual, the INCENTIVE to reduce water usage is totally missing from this list of recommendations. Higher prices for water users will incentivize them to use less water (whether that means shorter showers or fixing leaks). For farmers, the same holds: Charge them more, or -- better -- give them the chance to sell water (recent auctions saw prices 50x normal, at $2000/af) and you will see many acre feet transferred to the urban sector.

Asking them to install efficient irrigation systems and THEN let the extra water flow in rivers? Hopeless. They will irrigate with 100% of their water, efficient or not.
Bottom Line: Drought reduces the supply of water. The obvious response is to reduce demand. The fastest way to reduce demand is to raise prices.  Don't tell them what to do. Tell them water is scarce and let them find ways of using less. They are more creative than people writing op/eds on websites.