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The Risks of Cheap Water - NYTimes.com

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There was a great piece in the New York Times recently on the price of water.  The net of it was that water is too cheap.

Of course, most of us are aware that the price of water is too low, but fixing the price of water - whatever that means - will not alone fix our water issues.

Water, unlike most everything else, is a community issue only much more complex.

Santa Fe increased water prices over 40% over the last few years.  There was no big public outcry, nor was there a large corresponding drop in demand.

Santa Fe is a leader in water conservation and has had a multi-pronged conservation program in place for over a decade.  These programs include: education and outreach, rebates, building and landscaping code regulations, and tiered pricing.  As mentioned in the article, Santa Fe's innovative approach of requiring builders to bring water to the table is just one aspect of the City's water conservation program.  The city's programs touch almost every sector within the city (e.g. hotels and tourist - restriction on how often linens can be washed; landscapers - restrictions on types of plants that can be planted; restaurants - serving water only on request; all businesses - water conservation signage must be posted in every public restroom; and residences - restrictions on when watering is allowed). Saving water is truly a community effort and the results show.

But water unfortunately is not local. 

Saving water in Santa Fe is great, but the solutions need to expand to not just Santa Fe or any one community, but to the surrounding county, the state and the nation. We need to be involving all the regional stakeholders - communities, agricultural interests, large water users, small water and water utilities in these discussions. 

Water touches all aspects of our life near and far.  We need it to live, but also for our power, our food, our clothing, our economy.  A few communities in California are finding this out now that they have no water.  The wells are dry and the streams are not flowing.  Farms in southern New Mexico are now living with only one irrigation season.  Dairy farms in Wisconsin are moving from one side of the state to the other due to water.  Water is regional. People and businesses will follow the water.

Who should use the water, who should save?  Are local farms more important than truck farms in Mexico?  Should communities go green power versus spend their indirect water budget on coal fired power plants hundreds of miles away?  What does regional sustainable water use mean?  Should sustainable communities think about how much water they import via goods and services?

These are tough questions that previously did not have to be answered, but now are being forced to the forefront.

The days of cheap, easy to access water are over.  Now we need to start thinking about the future and how best to use our limited resources.


What do you think?

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