By Patrick Appel

David Zetland proposes:

As it stands, Los Angeles households pay $2.80 for the first 885 gallons they use per day. That's enough water to fill 18 bathtubs. The next 18 tubs cost $3.40, which is only 20% more. Most L.A. households don't even see this price increase, since the average household of three uses just 350 gallons--about seven bathtubs--each day. For that water, the household pays only $35 a month. If they use twice the amount, the bill merely doubles.

I propose a system where every person gets the first 75 gallons, or 1.5 bathtubs, per day for free but pays $5.60 for each 75 gallons after that.

Under my system, the monthly bill for the average household of three would come to $95.

My system is designed to reduce demand rather than cover costs. Revenue paid by guzzlers would cover the costs of those who use only a small amount of water. Any leftover profits could be refunded to consumers or used to enhance the quality or quantity of the water supply.

Drum offers this caveat:

One thing, though: this is going to be a hard sell unless agribusiness is included too. If we charged them market prices for water (a) food prices would go up a few pennies and (b) there'd be so much water left over for residential use we'd hardly know what to do with it. We'd be awash in the stuff.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.