Water is too cheap

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Our last quarterly water bill was $248. This is too cheap. With water rates at this level, there is simply no way of economically justifying any of our water efficiency measures.

We’re not very efficient users of water yet. Having moved into a 100-year-old house, there’s plenty of progressive improvements to be made:

  • installation of low-flow shower head  (done)
  • fixing dripping taps (done)
  • water efficient washing machine (done)
  • use of tank water for toilets (1/2 done)
  • installation of dual-flush toilets (when we renovate the bathroom)
  • installation of low-flow taps (now or as part of kitchen and bathroom renovation?)
  • water efficient dishwasher (when kitchen is renovated)

At present, our water usage is 494L/day,which is the same as the target rate for a 4-person household. It should be down at about 300L/day. So plenty of water savings to be made!

But let’s look at the economics of this:

If we got our water down to 300L/day, that would be a saving of 70kL per year. At a rate of $1.87 per kL, that would be the princely sum of $132.

That’s right. If we drop our water usage by 40% (!), we could save $132 per year.

On that basis, the water tank would take 50+ years to be paid back. Even a low-flow shower head ($80) would take several years to recoup the cost.

We’ll make the changes because we care about the environment, and it also makes us feel good. But spending thousands to save at hundreds doesn’t make a lot of sense in dollar terms.

Our comfortable middle-class life allows us to spend money on these things, but if money was tight, this wouldn’t even get on the list. If we’re going to get serious about water efficiency, the laughably cheap rate of water needs to be increased, and dramatically so.

I recognise that thisn’t an easy change, and that measures would need to be put in place to ensure that the poorer segment of society aren’t hit hard. But surely we can’t keep going on like this?

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2 thoughts on “Water is too cheap

    Mark said:
    January 19, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I heartily agree.

    There are way too many resources which don’t get meaningful (economic) values to match the value to society. Water is a great example. For similar reasons, a carbon tax makes great sense to me.

    Imagine if quality of life, social capital, and similar concepts had economic value!

    Lara said:
    February 18, 2010 at 8:55 am

    We’re in the same vote – we just got our green loan certificate, and though water tanks would be a much “better” use of our money, it doesn’t make as much financial sense as some other options. I still want them though!

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