National Research Council on the scarcity value of water

Another tidbit from the National Research Council’s new report on the problems of the California Bay-Delta:

By assigning to water a scarcity value of zero, many current policies signal consumers that water is available without limit, even while the limits imposed by scarcity are intensifying. As a result, more water is used than would be the case if its price reflected scarcity.


  1. Hey! I like this. “Scarce” and “scarcity” appear 194 times in The End of Abundance, but this passage (p. 40) may be the best fit for the Bay Delta: “Water prices based on cost may be too low to reduce demand to a level compatible with supply. When shortage results, water managers and politicians rush to increase supply or decrease demand. In most parts of the world, it’s hard to get more supply. If one community is short of water, it’s likely that other communities are also short. That means groundwater and surface water supplies will already be strained. Some communities may commit to build plants to desalinate salty water or recycle wastewater. Although these solutions may be reliable compared with imported water sources subject to political, logistical or climatic variation, they take years to plan and build. More important, they will not prevent shortages that result when demand outpaces supply. The underlying problem is not insufficient supply — it’s demand exceeding supply.”

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