North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has asked my friend Dave to take shorter showers:
The Governor of North Carolina, Mike Easley, announced on Tuesday he is calling on citizens across North Carolina to cut water consumption by 50 percent between now and Halloween. I guess you could think of this as a big science fair project, but on a state level.
Unlinked to economic pressures to do so, nobody will be following the good guv’s advice. Without water metering, water districts have no way to charge by use, so no way to implement pricing-based demand management. This is precisely NYC’s problem, and I wouldn’t be surprised if much of the east is unmetered. Without metering the best authorities can do is make sure people aren’t watering their lawns, but my guess would be that lawn-watering isn’t an important component of overall water use out there.
I contrast this to my childhood in the SF Bay Area where we were metered even in the hard drought of the early 80’s and if your monthly usage during a declared drought was higher than your monthly usage the year before you were punished. Dead lawns, collecting water while waiting for the shower to heat up, not flushing, etc. were all the rage.
I agree with Kevin. We are trained to respond to economic signals, and without one, only a few will follow the advice.
Speak for yourself Kevin! I am already following my Governor’s advice! No, all kidding aside, I do agree with you and think that they need to impose some costs to this at this point (I say as we are enjoying our second day of rain!). My town is under mandatory restrictions and I assume that if my water usage was extremely high the authorities would pay me a visit – but I actually have not seen any sign of that yet.
We’re all hoping this rain keeps up.
Is the water at your house metered? How does the price structure change as usage goes up?
Yes – ours is metered. We are simply charged by usage. I think if one were to use more than the mandatory restrictions they would get a visit – but I’ve not heard of that happening.
CO Front Range cities are increasingly adopting a tiered rate structure, where the base rate is usu. set by winter average usage, then the tiers begin on top of that amount.
This effectively penalizes irrigation and esp. the bluegrass turf they all seem to love up here so much, with sky-high water bills in Jul-Aug-Sep. Funny thing is, my GF has my same undergrad education and she applies that to her bluegrass lawn, and her water bill this summer was ~1/5 that of the surrounding homes, yet her grass was real purty and made the HOA happy. And we had a ~400 sf veggie garden.
Anyway, my city is doing a lot to ensure water savings: education (inserts, demonstration gardens, classes [attendance tied to incentives]), tiered rates, rebates for water-saving stuff (appliances, irrigation, timers). But no turf limitations, yet.
There’s a lot that can be done to save water.
There’s an interesting problem here with the use of winter consumption to set the base rate, against which summer excess is measured. Some folks game the system by watering excessively in winter.
Yes, and we know what our per-capita SFE (single-fam equivalent) should be, John, and we can usu. see the outliers that try to game the system.
IOW, we have lots of data, including IR aerial fotos to determine turf amounts (we used these to determine average irrigated area and ET). These sorts of data and analyses are getting cheaper every year and there’s a firm in Colo Spgs that does a lot of this work.
I should have added that it’s not politically easy to institute rate structuring and even places that have installed meters haven’t been successful in implementing variable pricing (but if you ask me which ones I’m going to have to find out which coffee shop my research assistant is drinking at today). It would be a good subject for some interdisciplinary research in sociology, economics and water: are western users in very obviously dry areas (i.e. the Front Range where other than scattered cottonwoods no trees naturally exist east of the foothills) more likely to acquiesce to variable pricing than eastern users living in, say, the 42-inches-per-year-precip thickly and lushly forested Hudson River Valley?
Kevin poses a great question regarding the willingness to accept water consumption restrictions as a function of the local climate. One hopes he can find some smart grad student to work on it. 🙂
In the interim, we can just wave our arms here on Inkstain and guess at the answers. My hunch, based on a comparison between the shrieking we here from wet, wet Atlanta versus the relatively calm acceptance of variable pricing structures in places like Tucson and Albuquerque, is that the western water users are, indeed, more likely to acquiesce.
There’s a fairly extensive and robust literature out there about the behaviors of folks around tiered rate structures. I’d wager that retroactively installing meters east of 100W is accepted grudgingly during drought and rarely accepted otherwise. We should start discussing this issue soon, as we’ll need to meter everyone if we wish to go on in a warmer world with more episodic precip.