In our opinion: Use market forces and not social shaming to conserve on water usage


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  • rnoble Pendleton, OR
    July 29, 2014 12:50 p.m.

    Many wish to associate water shortage with global climate change but don't demonstrate understanding of the relationship in their comments. The warmer the climate becomes the less water storage in the form of ice and snow. If this melt is captured early it is fresh water. Maybe it would be good to establish technology to do that. Also warmer climate means more and stronger storms.

    A lot of people think that lush green parks and golf courses are indicative of water wastage. I remind you that in many cases those parks and golf courses are actually using waste water. That technology should also be augmented so that private parties and farmers have access to that waste water stream. That is called secondary usage.

    About the "arbitrary" year 1900; in western USA water law the location of the water is not the way rights are established but the first use is the oldest and best right. In many rivers and streams all the water available in the driest months and years was already allocated by 1900 so that is the year used for "arbitrary" water decisions.

    There is more.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    July 29, 2014 8:57 a.m.

    Mark B... do you really think all those Hollywood types went out and bought Pruis' when they were introduced because they couldn't afford the gas for their Benz anymore? Or that Fur just became too expensive, and that is why media prone people don't wear it anymore? Or that we have taxed tobacco so much that the majority of middle and upper class don't smoke because of cost?

    There are plenty like you who don't care about social responsibility... but a large portion of society does care. Even if it only changes behavior by half of the people, it is far more effective than trying to price it out of use. Tobacco is the most odd example of this in that in large part the largest group who still uses the product is in the lower part of the economic scale, those whom the tax should impact the most, and yet it has had minimal impact on usage.

  • Hamath Omaha, NE
    July 28, 2014 4:55 a.m.

    @ Denverite,

    Thanks. I appreciate your taking the time to give some details.
    That makes it clear and it appears a equitable system, where the poor don't suffer, but the rich pay a lot for extra use, thus lowering the usage.

  • RichardB Murray, UT
    July 27, 2014 10:22 p.m.

    Under the market plan, the rich will waste water, while the poor go thirsty. I don't care much for that idea.

  • FT salt lake city, UT
    July 27, 2014 9:19 p.m.

    Kind of make's one wonder about the old, superstitious adage of be fruitful and multiply. Mother Nature has never been one to read relgious scripture. Too many people using to much of a limited resource.

  • Mark B Eureka, CA
    July 27, 2014 9:12 p.m.

    Sticks and stones may break my bones, but social shaming will never hurt me.

  • Denverite Centennial, CO
    July 27, 2014 8:05 p.m.

    Here in the Denver area, the first Y gallons cost X dollars per month, where Y Is enough water for my large family in a non-sprinkler month and X is a fairly small number. So for most people who use about that level or less, it's not an unbearable cost --and that level could probably be kept about the same for people worried about effects on the poor. Above that here, the next Y gallons coat 2X (for people like me who want the lawn looking non-dead in July and August), then 3X, then 4X for everything above that.

    But if you want it to hurt for the "rich" and/or also to actually get somewhere, instead of 2X, 3X, 4X, make the next Y gallons cost 10X, then 50X, then 500X. For golf courses in the dead of summer, make it 100X, 1,000X, then 10,000X. That is what is meant by "market forces"--and where you start getting some serious conservation.

  • brightness Taylorsville, UT
    July 27, 2014 7:55 p.m.

    "Water gives life, water takes away life". Mother Earth is running out of groundwater, we must seriously consider what we are doing, the more water, gas, and oil we take out from the ground, she will not have the insulation to keep her cool. She and no one else has the ultimate power to reconstruct the land, she has done it before, however we know the facts but we ignore the lessons. We have contaminated the surface waters and the deeper we drill, the groundwater will be replaced by the contaminated water. Money cannot replace the natural resources once they are eliminated. We, humans are on a fast pace to self-destruction.

  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    July 27, 2014 2:41 p.m.

    California is extremely diverse. There are extremely conservative counties, extremely liberal counties and everything in-between. California has had more Republican than Democratic governors. Our current governor is a Democrat, the one before that, a Republican. Currently the state legislature is 2/3 Democratic and 1/3 Republican. The new U.S. House Majority leader, Kevin McCarthy is from California.

    The state doesn't have a policy of reporting water "infractions," certain locales have instituted "hotlines" where people can call. Actually, these hotlines could be useful (and they can be abused as well). For example, my water goes on in the wee hours of the morning, I don't see how my drip line is working. I could have a hole in a drip line. or a broken sprinkler head causing water to gush out.

    Do we know the political party dominating the communities which have instituted hotlines? or the party to which those using the hotline belong to?

    No. Perhaps then we ought not make sweeping assumptions and judgements.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    July 27, 2014 10:55 a.m.

    Using market forces for commodities such as oil, cellphones, and tvs? Great!

    Using market forces for necessities such as water and health care? Horrible.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    July 27, 2014 5:41 a.m.

    "In a drought as severe as the current one, water prices would soar; and when water becomes expensive, people would use less of it out of self-interest. There would be no need to restrict people from washing their cars, for instance."

    I wish this was true. As part of that what-ever-x-percent, I know i'm extremely blessed. But also means things like this impact me differently. For example, I can afford to use as much gas as I like because it is an insignificant percentage of my income. Same with Water. If my water bill doubled, it wouldn't change much in how I used it. The bite of increased market cost impacts people at different levels, hurting those at the bottom the most.

    In Germany they have addressed this issue with regard to traffic fines. Rather than a flat rate, traffic fines are based on your income, insuring they have the same bite and deterrent to all. I doubt this would ever work here... but thinking that those who live at the upper end would let their lawns die because rates increase... Highly unlikely. Shame and social conscience work far better.

  • Allisdair Thornbury, Vic
    July 27, 2014 4:24 a.m.

    As with all problems education must be the first step. In other parts of the world they bring in restriction as needed.

    Look at Australia for example they limit Hose use, limiting car washing, lawn watering and ban use of a hose to wash the drive. This is followed up by adverting water saving tips. The government handed out water saving showers during the last drought.

    At the end of the day when the water runs out we are all in big trouble.

  • LDS Tree-Hugger Farmington, UT
    July 26, 2014 6:00 p.m.


    But why is the DN so gung-ho about proposing this with WATER,
    not for Oil, Coal or Farming?

    There's a reason why gas is $7-$9 a gallon in Europe and Asia --
    MARKETS drive it.

    BTW --
    Enough and to spare -- is only valid when we are GOOD Stewards of the Earth.
    Waste it, and the promise is null and void.

  • Sal Provo, UT
    July 26, 2014 5:51 p.m.

    Of course they use shaming in California. It is one-party rule there, the liberals. They do what they know best: divide and foment contention. We have had six years of it from Obama. He plays the race card pitting whites against blacks. He pits the rich against the poor. He can't bring Congress together to accomplish anything. Division and contention are the fruits of the Democratic Party. Now they have neighbors squealing on each other in California.

  • Sal Provo, UT
    July 26, 2014 5:48 p.m.

    Shoot! I love the few petunias I have and other flowers. I sneak out early to water them a little. They make me happy and keep me from getting depressed. I do turn off the tap when I brush my teeth or wash my hands. Oh my.

  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    July 26, 2014 5:20 p.m.

    I lived in LA in the 80's--early 90's during a water shortage. We were required to reduce water usage by 20%. Violations for not limiting water usage began with hefty fines to having a water restricter device installed on your water line. Low flow shower heads were mandatory on any new construction or when buying/selling a house. Low-flow toilets and the "if it's yellow it is mellow, if it is brown, flush it down" became standard. Washing cars and watering landscape during daylight hours was a no-no.

    Today, each water district and local municipality set their own water restrictions, penalties etc.

  • Screwdriver Casa Grande, AZ
    July 26, 2014 5:10 p.m.

    Raising everyone's water bill by 50% won't keep the rich from using a lot of water on those golf courses and home side lakes.

    It will make life just more miserable for those just getting by now. Let the poor only take one shower a week I guess to solve everyone's problem. That's the best part about being rich.

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    July 26, 2014 4:16 p.m.

    Those who complain that higher water costs would hurt vulnerable groups are missing the picture.

    Subsidizing water waste now at the cost of Utah's future is not the way to protect the poor.

    Unrealistically cheap water pricing is an extremely ineffective way to address poverty (and other concerns e.g. agriculture). It only spares the poor a tiny amount of money each month while giving everyone regardless of income the wrong incentives regarding water.

    We have much better ways we can address those problems. Adjust taxes and programs to meet needs rather than encouraging people to make stupid choices with their water by not charging a price that reflects the real costs of water use.

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    July 26, 2014 4:08 p.m.

    Utah's water prices have been set at least 3x too low across the board.

    As I once said in another forum:

    When will politicians realize that prices are the way to allocate scarce resources?

    Whether it's Soviet bread queues, 1970s US oil ration lines, or Governor Herbert putting up billboards asking people to play nice with the water, attempts to allocate scarce resources by other means have failed miserably. Politicians keep wanting to try everything but the one thing that makes sense.

    We want people to waste less water? Raise the price of water until people consume sufficiently less to allow the reservoirs to fill again. We can give people this strong incentive without causing an increase in median cost of living- for instance, by reducing and adjusting taxes.

  • Pendergast Salt Lake City, UT
    July 26, 2014 3:12 p.m.

    re: Linus

    "Mark me down as one who likes food better than green lawns, clean cars, and washed driveways... It is time to prioritize. The wealthy who can afford three-acre lawns must not be allowed to buy all the water they want."

    Agreed. It reminds of a few summers ago when they 'encouraged' Joe Average to conserve but the golf courses were being watered every day.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    July 26, 2014 2:00 p.m.

    Irony Guy at 7:21 nailed it. So did Ultra Bob, just before Irony.

    Water is the world's next oil crisis.

  • Thid Barker Victor, ID
    July 26, 2014 1:09 p.m.

    We read in scripture that God sometimes implemented droughts to humble and motivate prideful and arrogant people to repentance! Do you suppose??..naaa couldn't be that now, could it?

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    July 26, 2014 12:11 p.m.

    This is very serious business. You should study the Mormon pioneers' use of water as a common resource before you glibly offer a straight market solution.

  • Weberboy Fruit Heights, UT
    July 26, 2014 11:40 a.m.

    Yeah let's make water be based on supply and demand so the poor can't afford to water their lawns and maybe even not take care of basic necessities - and we therefore turn the slums into the ultra slums. I'm all about market economics but let's be realistic. Regulation is the solution here. We water our lawns too much in Utah - end of story. If this state wants to support a growing population, then we have to accept that our lawns our going to be yellow in the summer. If that bother you, than move to North Dakota.

  • Linus Bountiful, UT
    July 26, 2014 9:45 a.m.

    Mark me down as one who likes food better than green lawns, clean cars, and washed driveways. It is right to protect water for food providing farmers. One tier pricing of water would drive farmers out of business, raise food prices, and harm the poor and the elderly. It is time to prioritize. The wealthy who can afford three-acre lawns must not be allowed to buy all the water they want. Market forces alone won't solve this problem.

  • Hemlock Salt Lake City, UT
    July 26, 2014 9:29 a.m.

    Climate change is a serious consideration that has long term implications. The short term reality of water shortage is a different issue. Confusing the two does neither problem any favors. Reality-based charging for water usage will change peoples' behavior, but there should be a tiered fee structure. Everyone should be entitled to a baseline amount at a low price and those who have lawns, pools or other high use patterns should pay a higher rate. Zeroscaping yards will become more common when the real value of water shows up on a monthly bill.

  • RBB Sandy, UT
    July 26, 2014 8:59 a.m.

    If we eliminate shaming what will certain members of society do to feel intellectually superior to the rest of us. Yes, making water cost sensitive is more likely to actually solve the problem, but it robs the great joy of feeling smug while looking down on those not as "enlightened."

  • Noodlekaboodle Poplar Grove, UT
    July 26, 2014 8:09 a.m.

    If you want a good example of this, look at how many yards in Salt Lake have xeriscaping versus Davis County,(SLC has a lot more) I've lived in both places, Davis has a flat fee to use irrigation water outside, where SLC doesn't have irrigation access in very many places, so to water your yard is much much more expensive. Magically you don't see a ton of waste, and a lot of people that just tear out water hogs like Kentucky Bluegrass.

  • liberal larry salt lake City, utah
    July 26, 2014 7:29 a.m.

    Although I agree with using market principles to effectively ration our scare water supply, I think that the writers of this editorial are trying to give an "off the cuff" solution to a long running, complex problem.

    Maybe it would be better to have a (nonpartisan) legal scholar from one of Utah's fine universities give a more historical and nuanced analysis of our states water issues.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    July 26, 2014 7:21 a.m.

    The consequences of the "market approach"? The rich folks in St George would continue to waste water by the bucketful. A few more dollars for water means nothing to them. Meanwhile, the single mom, the struggling young couple with a baby, and the old lady on a fixed income would just go thirsty as water prices "soar."

    Three cheers for the market!

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 26, 2014 6:58 a.m.

    If by "market forces" the Deseret News means that everyone using water for every purpose pays the same price for water, I agree. The farmer, the swimming pool, the commercial car wash, the landscaping and decorating, every business, every public utility, every government function, even the water company itself, and if every user pays with the same price structure according to volume, then I agree.

    And if that can be put in place, if whistle blowers see or know of a crime being committed, they are obligated and rewarded for reporting it.

  • Hamath Omaha, NE
    July 26, 2014 5:04 a.m.

    This sounds good.
    One question if the editorial panel (or someone else) would elaborate. How does less water available actually (or how could it) drive it up in terms of a market price? Do people bid or would people bid on the water they can use?

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    July 26, 2014 12:27 a.m.

    Also, your assumption we have only two options - market or "shaming" trivializes a very serious matter.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    July 26, 2014 12:25 a.m.

    A new study by the University of California system and NASA documents that the Colorado River basin is literally being sucked dry as various water users tap ground water to replace stream flow. Much of the groundwater being used is non-renewable. The ground water loss has been roughly six times greater than the losses in Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

    You can just let market forces take care of this, without admitting the likely driver of this process - climate change. If those of us who believe in AGW are right, only a region wide plan can deal with this crisis. Yes, a plan. Does that give you hives? We always plan. The only question is on what level.

    As you know several of the climate change models predict the desert Southwest will simply run out of water. That, and the fact that change is happening faster than any of the models predicted, should bring about some urgency. Some politicos are going to have to risk talking about global warming, perhaps to the detriment of their political careers.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    July 26, 2014 12:03 a.m.

    Cost will encourage conservation. Same thing's going to happen with oil.