Monday, September 01, 2008

Water

I would think that residents of Las Vegas would consume less water than residents of a city like Seattle, but as it happens, the opposite is true, largely because the latter has adopted smarter pricing policies that incentivize conservation after basic needs are met:
Seattle has aggressively tiered water rates that top out at $10.50 per thousand gallons. The city uses about 100 gallons per person per day. Las Vegas, meanwhile, has rates that top out at $4 per thousand gallons, and it uses 227 gallons of water per person per day. The lesson for Las Vegas—and John McCain, for that matter—should be that it's a whole lot easier to change water prices than to start water wars.
Here's the whole post. Water is scarce and the population growth of the American west continues to push us to the limits of supply at current rates of consumption, but there's no real reason why we can't conserve on a variety of fronts and allow growth to continue while still meeting essential needs. On the more draconian side, homeowners do not need lawns in the desert, and outlawing them altogether would be reasonable. But a market-based approach seems to be working in Seattle, and it would be nice to give people the choice to grow a lawn and garden if they want to pay much higher rates for such extravagance.