Ed Polasko had a great comment on one of my recent Lake Mead posts that I thought was worth elevating. I was riffing on the lack of public understanding, even in the face of Mead’s dropping levels, of the drought and water use problem facing the West. Ed’s response:
For the average Joe/Mary, drought will only matter when they turn on their bathroom faucet and no water comes out, or when the water bill quadruples (or increases ten fold). Everyone else who now “gets it” is a either a water manager, environmentally enlightened, or a climate wonk. That’s where we are and always will be.
It’s a great point. Until we reach thresholds like those Ed describes, there is not likely to be broad public awareness here in the affluent U.S. about these issues. And the whole point of policy response is to find ways to avoid those thresholds. So the conversation inevitably will be among those water wonks that Ed describes.
1) prices can rise and fall with shortage (requires smart meters)
2) Some people (Aussies, e.g.) do pay attention to water supplies, b/c they have more “community” than we do (behind our gates).
It is a great point, and it’s where Scott Huler begins an excellent book on infrastructure published this year (called “On the Grid”).
“To modern suburbanites drought can seem like the most surreal of weather events. All other severe weather — cold, wind, snow, rain — affects your life immediately and profoundly…but in a drought, there’s still water everywhere. Turn on your faucet, even if it hasn’t rained for two months [in Raleigh, N.C.] and you get a nice cup of cool, drinkable water.