Is water too cheap?

The issue of water always rears up for me when I’m out in the scrub – I’m reminded that I use more water in a day in the burbs than a week out in the bush, without foregoing basic hygeine. I have to bring my own water, so it’s expensive in terms of transport and emissions.

Do we pay enough for water generally? I don’t mean bottled water – according to, over 30 billion bottles of water were consumed by folks in the USA back in 2006 – and only 14% of the bottles recycled.

That water we pay dearly for – up to 5,000% more according to the site; not to mention the cost to the environment.

I’m talking about the water we get out of the tap. Water is life, none of us can do without it, yet it is so very, very cheap and we tend to treat it that way.

When gas prices skyrocketed recently, people started changing their driving habits – driving less, car pooling etc. It caused some people severe hardship, but overall, we adjusted.

Some are suggesting instead of building desalination plants, such as is being constructed here in Adelaide, it would be more beneficial to charge more for water.

Australian National University’s Economics Professor Quentin Grafton believes that’s the case. He points out that it costs $1 – 2 billion to build a desalination plant and associated infrastructure. If water was to go up in price dependent upon storage supplies, this would incite people to waste less, avoiding the need for a desalination plant. When water was plentiful again, the price could drop.

Aside from the impact on those with a low income (whom I assume could be accommodated), the idea sounds pretty solid to me. However, I’m still big on utility independence – such as solar power and installing rain barrels and tanks. Part of the reason is environmental, but I do fear a time when, for whatever reason, we turn around and the government isn’t there to help us  during a crisis. Images of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina spring to mind.

When you really, really know your water supply is finite and/or will cost a lot to bring more in, it certainly makes a big difference in how you use it.


Simple water saving tips
Saving water in the garden
Rainwater tank materials