Stop conserving water

By Rex Curry
Guest Column in the University of South Florida student newspaper, the Oracle.

People should not altruistically conserve water, and the media should not encourage the practice.

People who altruistically conserve water and who support watering restrictions are rubes and patsies who promote waste by naively propping up the government's pricing system, which would otherwise be levied in market prices among private firms just like other goods. Watering restrictions are another regulatory response to overuse of water caused by the government's own bureaucratic water fees, which are not market prices (that would rise during shortages or drought, based on supply and demand). The present Soviet-style rationing of water simply leaves extra water for the most wasteful uses while defeating profit incentives for developing other sources of water.

So long as government owns and controls the water supply, excluding free enterprise, the plans to provide water in the future will be nothing but more tired socialist schemes. As part of the media's efforts to solve water shortage problems, the media should advocate the privatization of water sources and of all water distribution systems.

Articles regarding solutions to local water shortages are always simplistic. Try writing articles advocating the hackneyed "public resource" management concepts for oil, coal, natural gas and phosphate.

It will be a sad day at the birth of a "West Coast Regional Water, Oil, coal, Natural Gas and Phosphate Supply." And it will be an even sadder day at the birth of a "West Coast Regional Food, Clothing and Shelter Supply."

Bureaucratic efforts to encourage greater water conservation and regulation will achieve the opposite of that intended.

Altruistic water conservation in a non-market system helps wasteful people evade the true cost of wastefulness and it discourages use and development of alternatives, which would eventually reduce the price of water. Perpetuating the present non-market approaches will cause greater shortages and higher water prices.

The state's water bureaucracies produce water shortages in the same way the former Soviet Union produced food shortages.

How fortunate that food has been a relatively free market compared to water, or the Soviets could have broadcast pictures of Americans standing in line for food. Instead, the Soviets could have shown local water rationing and conservation programs, and private lakes being drained by government bureaucracies.

One of the biggest, most economical water systems evolved from a company founded in 1782 by the Perrier brothers that supplied piped water in Paris.

Steven Hanke, a former senior economist for the Council of Economic Advisers, who has made a study of private water systems, states, "The success of the Parisian system can be laid squarely at the feet of private ownership and regulation through competition, rather than public regulatory bodies."

Capitalism provides the means to build cisterns, drip irrigation systems, better commodes and showerheads, automatic faucets and other solutions. Capitalism's desalination technology and waste-water recycling technology will eventually circumvent the problems caused by government ownership and control of water.

Meanwhile environmentalists lengthen shortages and delay innovation by using conservation to hide the true cost of water and by diverting time and money to government and self-defeating programs.

As Libertarians and Objectivists say, "Water is too precious to have the government involved."

Rex Curry is a USF alumnus.

May 28, 1997

water conservation citation lawn watering nazis socialism swastika

privatize waterways green libertarianism eco capitalism
privatize waterways