Is price the variable that can start making us use water more responsibly and sustainably?
by Pranav Arun
If I ask you to name one thing that is absolutely necessary for you, the first thing that should come to your mind should be water. On top of consuming it for many bodily purposes, we also find it necessary to clean ourselves, take away waste, and clean items such as pots and pans. Also, especially here in the United States, we severely waste it and underprice it, and we use it for tasks where we could use other means. This waste of water makes US citizens sometimes believe that water is an unlimited, free resource, but the facts are that water is a priceless resource that many people do not have access to. For this reason, this trilemma comes into existence.
According to a PWC research paper, over 47% of the world will live in high-stress areas of water, which is almost half of the world. The world is facing a growing scarcity of water, whether that may be from an increasing world population or increased desert land from climate change. The effects of having less water can be observed in wildfires occurring across the world, and the fact that these wildfires are greatly caused by land that is drier now than ever. Also from the research paper, 41% of CEOs of businesses responding to the PricewaterhouseCoopers Global CEO Survey said that increasing freshwater scarcity would have a negative effect on business operations. Water scarcity and stress are having a profound effect on many aspects of life, and these desperate times may possibly call for desperate measures.
This brings our trilemma into importance: Should water be priced at a higher value, should water be continued to be priced at the same value with focuses on more equal distribution of water, or is there a neutral side?
The Supporting Side: People for Water at Higher Prices
Many people rightly say that water should be priced higher because of the effect it will have on people misusing and wasting water. Currently, water is priced at virtually nothing for people in first-world countries like the US. Even though we pay a water bill, that mostly covers the expenses for filtration and distribution, and not really the actual price of the water. For us, water can be priced at less than 1 cent per gallon, and this causes this side to believe that water should definitely be priced higher. This will definitely increase awareness for waste of water, as well as the amount of water we use every day. It might inspire alternate means of cleaning pots and pans and alternate means of disposing of waste that do not need to use water, and this will help lower the rate of global water consumption. In conclusion, this side believes that the pricing of water is key to helping more people use it more responsibly and to help distributed usage of water.
The Opposing Side: People for Focusing on Water Distribution
There is also a dominating side in this Trilemma that believes that the way to go to help with the water crisis is not by increasing the price of water, but to actually focus on water distribution to places that do not have consistent access to clean water. These places can even be in the US, because there are 1.6 million people without running water or indoor plumbing, according to Whyy.org. This is an unacceptable number in a first-world country, and this side believes that increasing the price of water will hurt the amount of people that can’t have or afford water. The solution is to focus on water distribution to more remote, poorer areas so that everyone has access to water before everyone starts to use water more sustainably. In conclusion, this side believes that priority should be on water distribution rather than water sustainability, and the water distribution by increased pipeline or delivery to poorer places can solve the distribution problem quickly.
The Possible Neutral Side
In this Trilemma, we have observed two separate sides, one focusing on more responsible water usage, and one focusing on increased water distribution. This neutral side would focus on decreasing the amount of water needed, therefore making water sustainability and water distribution easier. Whether this may be finding alternate means of waste disposal such as incineration, finding more sustainable means of watering crops, or having more turf than grass to avoid spending water on that, all of these can help decrease the amount of water we need in our lives. In my personal opinion, I believe that the people for increased distribution of water have it right, and that is what we should be focusing on before we focus on decreasing waste of water. If we master water distribution, decreasing water usage will be more effective as we can target more people to decrease water usage. In conclusion, this Trilemma has many ways to go, and each of them have convincing arguments.