"The Water Shortage Myth"

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.