What’s the Deal With Water Conservation?

I am having difficulty figuring out the hype over water conservation.  It is pushed by the establishment media.  It is taught to kids in school.  Or perhaps brainwashed into their minds is a better description.  In some places, you can only water your lawn on certain days of the week.
First, nobody needs to tell me how to use my water or give me an incentive to supposedly save water.  I pay my water bill each month.  That is my incentive.  I am not going to unnecessarily water my lawn because I don’t want to pay a huge water bill.  I am only watering my lawn so that my grass doesn’t die.
My next thought on this subject is on the whole idea of saving water.  Where are we saving it?  Water evaporates into the air and falls back down in the form of rain.  It actually works really well as a filtering system.  You get clean water falling from the sky.
I am no scientist, but I don’t think massive amounts of water are disappearing from the earth.  It may get redistributed from some areas to others, but there is no shortage of water on earth.
This leads to my next thought and that is that two-thirds of the earth is covered by water.  Again, why is anyone supposedly worried about a shortage?  I understand that you can’t drink salt water, but even with that there is wonderful technology that can actually remove the salt to make the water usable.  It may not be cheap to do, but there is no shortage.
At some price, water is available.  While it does fall from the sky, it is not a free resource, unless you can collect your own rainwater or if you have a well.  But at some price, there is plenty of water to go around.
This leads to the most important point of all regarding water conservation.  In most places, it is government that is in charge of supplying water.  If there are any shortages, that is clearly the reason.  If water were like other goods provided in the marketplace, there would be a valid price system that would allocate resources and find equilibrium for supply and demand.
This means that some places would pay more for water.  If you live in a remote area or if you live in a dry climate, you can likely expect to pay more for water.  But the higher price will mean that people in those areas will conserve more because of the incentive to spend less money.  In addition, the higher price will provide a signal to suppliers to shift more resources – in this case water – to the areas that need it most.
It is quite symbolic of government that water conservation is pushed.  When the government gets involved in something, there is usually rationing.  Think about medical care.
Meanwhile, in the voluntary market sector, we see the opposite.  Do you ever see bottled water companies telling you to limit your purchases to save water?  That would be ridiculous.  Bottled water companies want you to buy their water.  If they have a low supply of water for some reason, they can simply raise their prices.
Whenever you see shortages and rationing, think government.  It is no different with water.  It is no different with medical care.

9 thoughts on “What’s the Deal With Water Conservation?”

  1. Geoff, I’m sure you’ve heard of the passenger pigeon. There where billions of them. So many that their flocks would darken the sky. The widely accepted belief is that they were market hunted to extinction. Assuming that is correct, and that the market is the best way to conserve a resource like pigeons, or drinking water, why are there no more passenger pigeons? Did the market fail? If so, why?

  2. Is this a serious comment? I’m not really sure how to relate water conservation and passenger pigeons. I don’t know how passenger pigeons went extinct any more than I know about dinosaurs.

    By suggesting that the government shouldn’t be involved in the business of allocating water, other than perhaps enforcing property rights, I am in no way suggesting that a libertarian world would be a perfect world. But for all I know, government could have contributed to the extinction of passenger pigeons, such as owning vast amounts of land.

  3. Yes, it is a serious comment. Water and passenger pigeons are both natural resources. Let me state it another way: Are there some instances, such as with natural resources (passenger pigeons, salmon, etc.) that the state should get involved in managing that resource because of an inability to attach property rights (let alone enforce those rights) to things like pigeons and salmon?

  4. That’s actually a really good question and much more clear than the first comment. I think this is one of the toughest questions for libertarians to deal with. How do you deal with rivers and oceans?

    I think the answer still lies in property rights. If there is a problem with animals being killed off, it is usually because there are a lack of property rights. It is usually on government owned land or government owned water.

    The land problem is easy to solve because government simply shouldn’t own any land. Water is a little tougher to deal with, but for lakes and rivers, there is no reason that property rights cannot be obtained by those who own the land around it.

    I think in the meantime we should push for as much decentralization as possible. If there are going to be government rules in regards to wildlife and such, then it is better done at a local level.

    I seriously don’t know much about passenger pigeons, but I really wouldn’t be surprised if the government somehow helped in their extinction.

    But as I said, a libertarians world is not a perfect world. It is just that problems are solved in a more peaceful way and usually more effectively. We have thousands of government laws and regulations now and it doesn’t stop certain problems with wildlife. It also doesn’t stop water shortages. In the latter case, while at risk of sounding like Reagan, government is not the solution; it is the problem.

  5. Dear L.I.

    There is so much wrong in your statements, so many holes in you sophomoric logic; I do not even know where to begin. Let me be brief: you are completely ignorant of the facts regarding water resources, and water use, and water economics. Just stop talking, you are making a complete fool of yourself – and you are too ignorant to realize that.

  6. It is easy to call me ignorant and a fool, but if you disagree so much, why don’t you offer some constructive criticism? Your whole comment is just calling me names and you don’t offer anything to support your position. Actually, I don’t even know what your position is, other than that you disagree with me.

  7. I think the author should invest some time and effort into actually learning about the issue.

    It is fine to have an opinion.

    However, to offer your opinion as being a valuable one, is misleading, at best, if you have not spent any time investigating the issue.

    If you had spent 1-2 hours looking into this… you would not be saying most of the things you are saying.

    It seems to me you are just spouting off, and blindly applying some vague libertarian ideology.

    This ads nothing to the community’s understanding of the issue. Instead you just confuse things and mis-direct the ignorant or less intelligent public.

    You talk as if you know something about it, but its clear you do not. So go learn something and THEN come back with something of value to add.

    there are about 4 million web sites discussing water conservation. To see someone like you spouting nonsense, its just a waste of time. You have made a fool of yourself, and when you are confronted with that you come back and confirm it instead of self examination.

    Just don’t pollute the airwaves with your abundant ignorance, do you understand? Don’t talk until you know something, until you have some understanding.

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