The New York Times sure is making blogging difficult. Highlighting text and hitting the Typepad "Blog It" button doesn't work (in Chrome) or sends me to another NYTimes story (in Firefox) [or vice versa]. Yet, I persevere (save the webpage to desktop, printscreen for images, etc) when it is worth it.
Water is far too cheap across most American cities and towns. But what’s worse is the way the United States quenches the thirst of farmers, who account for 80 percent of the nation’s water consumption and for whom water costs virtually nothing.
Adding to the challenges are the obstacles placed in the way of water trading. “Markets are essential to ensuring that water, when it’s scarce, can go to the most valuable uses,” said Barton H. Thompson, an expert on environmental resources at Stanford Law School. Without them, “the allocation of water is certainly arbitrary.” ...
The price of water going into Americans’ homes often does not even cover the cost of delivering it, let alone the depreciation of utilities’ infrastructure or their R&D. It certainly doesn’t account for other costs imposed by water use — on, say, fisheries or the environment — caused by taking water out of rivers or lakes.
Consumers have little incentive to conserve. Despite California’s distress, about half of the homes in the capital, Sacramento, still don’t have water meters, paying a flat fee no matter how much water they consume.
Some utilities do worse: charging decreasing rates the more water is consumed. Utilities, of course, have little incentive to discourage consumption: The more they did that the more their revenues would decline.
Rates have little relation to water’s replacement cost. In Fresno, which gets less than 11 inches of rain a year, a family of four using 400 gallons a day faces a monthly water bill of $28.26. In Boston, where rainfall exceeds 40 inches, the same family would pay $77.73.
While this may seem a mess, it is nothing compared to the incentives facing American farms. ...