On Voluntary Conservation

From North Carolina, word that residents are not really all that altruistic and require some sort of pricing structure to help them understand that they’re in a frickin’ drought:

Less than two months ago, Gov. Mike Easley urged all North Carolina communities to reduce water consumption by 50 percent. After showing marked declines in the weeks immediately after the governor’s challenge, Triangle utilities are now seeing the limits of short-term conservation measures.

“We have gotten most of the stuff that can be gotten by behavior change,” said Bill Holman, a senior fellow at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. “If we’re going to make additional gains, it’s going to involve policy, pricing and technology.”

(via John Whitehead)


  1. Your book on drought.


    Are you willing to tell us a bit about the theme of your book about drought?

    Some of your readers may have expertise and resources that could help the book become better and that they would share with you (and us!).

  2. Conversely, pricing is subject to folks just paying the charge.

    Aurora, CO has an excellent water meter dataset and in the last drought they had a perfect test bed for voluntary vs regulatory conservation ideas. They found that the method depends upon social stratum – lower HH income responded to voluntary more than other strata, higher HH income reponded to pricing more than other strata. Can’t seem to find URL for the journal paper this morning – addled from xmas cards perhaps…



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