What is water worth?
Today’s news reports that the state of California has proposed fining an irrigation district with senior water rights $1.5 million for stealing water after being informed that there was no water for it to take for irrigation purposes. See this link for more details. It started get me thinking about the value of water. What is water worth? How much should we charge for water? Often it costs nothing for people that use it. Is it worth nothing? No. It has value. In fact, water has immense value. Society cannot survive without it. Our natural resources require water. Therefore water should cost something, but how much? Dr. David Zetland proposes a simple cost structure for water that would help end the West’s water shortages. He presents those ideas in his book, Living with Water Scarcity. A summary of one approach to pricing water is found on his blog. It seems simple, but I like the general approach. The utilities need to be profitable (if private) or be maintained (if a public entity). Charge the customers a basic charge that covers those basic costs. All users pay the same rate per gallon of water. Charge more when water is scarce. Follow those rules and water will be available when it is needed. It may cost a lot more, but it will be available.