04 March 2015

The tyranny of false choices

How do you get a misleading headline like this: "Field Poll: More Californians want mandatory water rationing"?

Start with a flawed poll that asks:
Governor Brown and most major water providers in the state are calling for Californians to voluntarily cut back the amount of water they use by 20%. Others are calling for mandatory water rationing with fines or steep penalties for those who do not conserve. Which policy do you favor the state and other major water providers to be taking at this time – voluntary cutbacks or mandatory water rationing?
People asked this question favored voluntary conservation over rationing, but the elephant in the room is the obvious third option: raise prices.

Most people see voluntary cutbacks as the most "liberal" of policies because people can still do what they want. Others want mandatory rationing to "get the wasters."

Higher prices are better than both options because they give people the option of cutting back OR paying more to use the same amount of water. Prices are also good for (1) utility finances (they don't like voluntary cutbacks that kill revenues from water sales) and (2) allowing people maximum flexibility in choices. Mandatory rationing usually hits (front) lawns, large families, and water misers the worst. Rationing often makes little difference to water wasters, as a 20 percent cutback from "way too much" is easier.

Bottom Line: Stop with the cognitive dissonance ("save water but we have plenty") and command &  control. If you want people to use less water, then raise the price (here's how).

H/T to RM

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