Saturday, October 30, 2010

Water utility decoupling for water conservation?

This subject is an idea to be explored rather than a firm commitment, but it's an idea for promoting water conservation in the same way that California has promoted energy conservation: decoupling the profits that regulated companies make from selling energy, or water, from the amount that's used.

See here for more information. The electricity system in much of the country lets private utilities make a profit that depends on the amount of electricity used, so naturally, those companies are not at all enthusiastic or cooperative in energy conservation efforts. In California, the utilities can make money by investing in conservation efforts that reduce the amount of energy that customers use, and the utility then is allowed to charge a little more. The result is that total bill Californians pay is typical for Americans, but the total used is much less, down to almost half of the typical usage.

We can explore the same solution for water (and there has been some work in this area). This could do a lot to increase water conservation, and help align the private and public interest together in doing more to protect our most essential natural resource.

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