Arrant nonsense and unfair representations are acceptable in scathing sarcasm, as long as the point gets made. Or, at least, it's a funny read. Professor Sharan Beder's ugly spray on water reform (The Age, 21/9/2006) achieves neither. Instead, she makes spurious and unsupported allegations about the calamity that would ensue if market-based reforms were adopted. Could politicians, regulators and consumers tolerate water being "harvested from gutters" (including "syringes and doggy poop"), industrial waste water (with heavy materials) being "poured down the drain" and partially-treated sewage being sold unknowingly to consumers "at five times" the price? These are not just mischievous rhetorical flourishes, but agitprop deliberately designed to spread fear and muddy the debate.
What's really going on? Professor Beder clearly wants to continue the present regime of subsidies to farmers (regardless of how efficiently they use water). She also wants to subsidise poorer households by keeping water artificially cheap for everyone. Market-based reforms will get in the way of those goals. It's fine to support the status quo, but Professor Beder needs to explain how the present system is both socially fairer and more environmentally sustainable. Exploiting fear of change and willfully poisoning public opinion is a disgraceful way to advance her cause.