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What is Water Really Worth?

"When the well runs dry, we shall know the value of water." – Benjamin Franklin

It is often said that water is priceless because of its important to all aspects of our lives.  Despite this, society's actions often don't reflect this importance.  Water waste is still a large issue through leaking water pipes or excessive watering, which causes water to run down the street.  Perhaps the source of this disconnect is that we don't pay what water is worth.   In fact, we usually don't pay for water itself.  City dwellers only pay for the cost of transportation and treatment.  Texas agricultural users historically only paid to drill the well and/or for the pump.  As many cities review their water rates and usage, it is important to know what we pay for and think about how much we should pay for in the future.

Rate structures should be conservation oriented. A basic quantity of water for domestic uses should be available at a low price to ensure that everyone has equal access, but additional water should be increasingly more expensive with volume.  If a user wants to use more than their fair share, they will have to pay for it.  Although Corpus may be shying away from making their users accountable, the Lower Colorado River Authority is doing just the opposite.  It turns out many users on the highland lakes are accessing water without an active contract. In other words, they are getting water for free.  After waiting 2 years for nonpaying users to self report, LCRA will be reporting violators to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for enforcement.

A new report from the Texas comptroller's office evaluates the impacts of different drought scenarios on the economy of Texas and predicts actions that the state would need to take in response including the incentivization of low flush and dual flush toilets and water efficient home appliances.  It is unclear why this should only occur if drought continues.  Water should be conserved and used in the most efficient way possible all the time, not just in times of drought.  Cities often feel that this is not necessary when water is "available" but the reality is that all water not used by them will be used by another person or the environment or can be saved for a dry day.  More importantly, if citizens always use water in an efficient way, it is easier to adjust to dry conditions and plan for uncertainty.

 

Posted in Austin, Central Texas, Drought, LCRA, Resources, Texas Economy, Water Conservation | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment