Jay Lund, Dr. Water at UC Davis, asks a provocative question that gets to this gnarly question of the status of water saved by conservation measures – what if municipal water users could direct how the savings from their conservation efforts are used?
Albuquerque has done extraordinarily well in the last two decades. Per capita water use is on track to be half of what it was in 1995, and total municipal water use (even after population growth) is the lowest it’s been since the 1980s. But never has there been a conversation here about what the savings are to be used for. It’s simply presumed that the savings will continue to be used in the municipal water system. For some, this chafes. Here’s Lund:
People who save water like to know their conserving is doing some good, such as sustaining economic growth, building municipal reserves for longer droughts or supporting the environment.
But many urban residents are concerned their water savings will go to uses they value less — such as supplying more wasteful customers, new urban development or agriculture — rather than meeting the needs of fish, waterbirds and other wildlife, which they value more.
What might a policy mechanism that broadens the options look like?