Can We Please Just Do The Obvious?

For anyone who’s managed to miss the news for the past 6 months, the southeast US is in a 100-year drought. As we are wont to do in such cases, we have ignored this for the past several years until now all our lakes and reservoirs are nearly empty. Suddenly, we have a crisis.

Imagine that.

So what do our vaunted civil servants do in this precarious situation? They implement outdoor watering bans. They argue with other states. They complain to the Army Corps of Engineers. They shutdown car washes and landscape companies. They go on TV and tell us how dreadful it is, and how sorry they are that people must lose jobs, and that they just can’t help this awful, awful situation.

All the while they completely ignore the blindingly obvious, brain-dead simple, straightforward, and guaranteed 100% foolproof solution to the problem. Any 3rd-grader could suggest this.

Raise the price of water!!!

Oh, I know we can’t raise the price. After all, it’s completely unfair to the poor.

Bullshit.

The average person can live comfortably on 1,000 gallons/month. They don’t even need to be particularly conservative to do that. We could probably survive well on 750, but let’s say 1,000 to be compassionate. So for a family of four you need 4,000 gallons.

Let’s be really, really compassionate for the poor. Set the price for the first 5,000 gallons at $10. Set the price for the next 1,000 at $10. That’s $20 for up to 6,000 gallons – enough to serve a family of 7.

Set the price for the next 1,000 at $20. The next 1,000 at $30 and so on. At 10,000 gallons you’re paying $150. By the time you get to 15,000 gallons (a typical amount of water used in one month watering a yard) the cost is now $550. Nobody gets a pass. Everybody pays.

You think people won’t stop using excess water once they get a $550 bill? I sure will. If they won’t (or don’t), raise the incremental price to $20 per thousand. I don’t know anyone who would spend $1,100/mo on water. If you have that kind of money more power to you – there aren’t going to be enough of you to significantly raise total usage and we can all get on with our lives without these self-serving, jackass politicians grandstanding on TV with all their new emergency regulations.

Car wash owners would have to run out and change their coin-ops from $2 to $10. Or $20. That will hurt business, but people who want to spend $10 or $20 can still wash their car now and then. And maybe the owners will figure out they need to recycle. Ditto for industrial users and the power company. Office building managers will have to figure out how to actually operate their sprinkler systems, or turn them off. And landscapers will have to stop guaranteeing their plants. But we’ll get over it.

It’s absurd to try and reduce the use of limited resources in every way imaginable except the one way that is best designed for managing limited resources – economics.

But this is the government. I wish I could be surprised.