. = V E N T = .
Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Water-Saving Tips or Rinse and Spin?

The Age is to be commended for the handy guide to how Victorians can save water (Focus, The Age, 1/9/2006). Sadly, domestic usage comprises just a few percent of our state's water consumption, with many times more used in irrigation.

In the interests of water-saving, rather than spin, we should have seen "Lobby your MPs to remove wasteful subsidies to farmers, implement market-based measures (such as water trading) to ensure water gets to where it's best used and create incentives for businesses to invest in water-saving infrastructure."

Farmers won't cover their irrigation systems while they're getting artificially cheap water. And Victoria won't become drought-proof by shaving another couple of percent off state consumption.



<    >
Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

Finally, something I can get on board with! Are you are under estimating the amount of effort the gov't is putting towards this problem? The Aussie Water Smart Farms program and Sustainable Irrigation and Land Management program have together been extended by 13 million dollars. If you calculate that the agricultural export target for Victoria is 12 billion, well that's 1 penny on every $1000!

Water conservation has been an issue here in Canada (Oh Canada where are our glaciers gone to). Instead of practicing proper conservation all year round, we've taken to shipping in the water. In south Ontaria's Great Lake region they have to resort to groundwater "mining" (unsustainable practice), despite having the largest fresh water inland sources in the world. This is primarily due to poor water conservation proactices by the industry and agriculture rich area.

I don't suppose it's any reason not to follow proper individual water conservation practices. Still, we've often discussed that our first home should have it's own water services (rain and recycled internal water systems).

Tuesday, September 05, 2006 12:29:00 am  
<    >
Blogger Greg vented ...

Wow - I wasn't aware Canada had a water problem! It supports the notion that we don't have a water supply problem, we have a water management problem; even with all the water in the world it's still possible to bugger things up.

My view is that it's because water here (and presumably in Canada) is still too cheap for some, too dear for others. Call me an unreconstructed liberatarian, but we need consumers (domestic and rural) to actually listen to the price signals without the state intervening and "dampening" the system for political gain.

It's perverse seeing million dollar advertisements to conserve water and government-funded "dob in a neighbour" programs. This is not required for any other commodity - we need to ask "why water?"

Think about it: what would be your response to seeing a neighbour emptying 2L bottles of Fanta down the drain? As long as they paid the fair market price, probably cheering (vile stuff, invented by the Nazis). But if you knew it was subsidised by your taxes, well you'd call the Fanta Waste Hotline.

Another reason for fair pricing is that we should recognise the different priorities people put on things in their lives. Why shouldn't suburban gladioli lovers have the opportunity to outbid apple farmers for water? If someone values their flowerbed at $100/month, while the same amount of water earns a farmer $2 worth of rice ... how is it fair, reasonable or efficient to use the power of the state to outlaw the former to benefit the latter?

While better efficiency benefits us all, the danger is that millions of Victorians will think "well, I'm having three minute showers, so that's the water crises avoided". It provides a "release valve" in that it takes pressure of the government to make harder structural changes.

In this sense, these "fix the leaky tap" campaigns remind me of the "duck and cover" campaigns of the Cold War: in the face of a thermonuclear holocaust, ducking and covering is useless. But, it pacified the public, gave them something to do, made them feel empowered and ensured the politicians could get on with avoiding the underlying threat of doom.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006 1:52:00 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home