22 May 2015

How much water do you use?

The March activity for the 2015 Water Smarts Calendar is to enter your water use and cost over at the California Water Atlas (description from last year), which is -- it seems -- off line.

Given that fail, all I can say here is that people sometimes have a problem understanding the relation between the price they pay per unit of water, the water they use and scarcity.

That's because water tariffs can be very complicated (a mix of fixed and variable charges that often take time to understand), because many uses (e.g., lawn watering) are "out of sight, out of mind", and because charges often reflect system costs -- not the cost of water, which is usually free to those with permits.

What I advocate is simple prices that reflect scarcity and cover costs. The only reasons I can see for NOT charging those prices are politicians' fear of raising costs (or making them clear) and an industry consensus to use old (or fashionable) methods that are too complex to understand.



JM said...

Maybe you described this in one of your books, but it would be useful to have a script, or at least some pointers, for when I show up at the STPUD board meeting and suggest that they change their pricing to reflect costs and water scarcity. I could use a simple statement that would make sense and could be backed up by authoritative reports etc. I think most public utilities have a charter that says how they are allowed to increase prices. I would need a replacement for the language in that charter. I have no problem being an activist, but I want to have a workable solution to offer the board members. And yes, I agree they may want to look good to their constituents by not raising prices in order to win re-election. What's can I give them to counter that fear?

David Zetland said...

This is a great idea (a "model regulation"), but I am not the lawyer type. I know that it's important to emphasize that (1) prices rise with scarcity but fall in abundance and (2) excess "scarcity" funds should be refunded to customers (revenue neutral) -- a structure that I will blog on soon.

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.