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The Forum > Article Comments > Water - a byword for waste > Comments

Water - a byword for waste : Comments

By Bruce Haigh, published 14/10/2010

The management of water should not be left to markets where the pursuit of profit has water abused and devalued.

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Bruce

Letís suppose that your wishes were granted, and that legislation authorized a person or body to ensure that water is allocated to its most important and urgent uses in accordance with its real value, using decrees and regulations.

The problem facing the authority is this: we have 22 million people, each of whom values water for drinking, household, growing food, and conserving nature. Those values are subjective and change from time to time. They cannot be measured, and they cannot be compared one person with another. The availability, quality, location and relative scarcity of the water is also constantly changing, every day, permanently. Also, we use water to make products that we sell to people overseas. They are humans too, and should be able to share peaceably in natureís bounty; and cutting off all contact with the outside world is neither possible nor desirable in any case.

Problem 1
How is the authority going to know what the values are that he is trying to satisfy? The fact is, there is no way he or his delegates can do this Ė ever. It is impossible.

There is also no way in the world for anyone to identify the real value of water, because it doesnít have an objective "real" value. The value of water is not *in* the water itself. Abstract ďrespectĒ is not a practicable solution. The problem and the solution are in human valuations of what to do with scarce water so as to satisfy particular human values relative to other conflicting values.

Problem 2
Even if the authority could know the impossible, which it canít, the next problem is - how to solve the problem this knowledge presents? Absent money calculation, the authority will have no way to reconcile all the different possible uses of water in terms of a lowest common denominator. They will be stuck trying to compare all the different possible qualities and quantities of water, with all the different changing subjective value scales, with all the different relative scarcities of water - another impossible task.
Posted by Peter Hume, Thursday, 14 October 2010 1:59:13 PM
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If all the water was where all the people wanted it to be, there would be no possibility of profit. Profit only arises when someone changes the resources from where it is, to where the consumers want it.

How is this different to allocating water to its most important and urgent uses? People self-evidently value the good they buy more than the money they pay to get it. The only practicable way to mobilize the local knowledge of all 22 million people about how best to use and conserve water, and how to allocate it to their constantly changing values, relative to the scarcity of water, *as best we know how*, is to allow them to buy and sell it.

You criticize the fact that water is being wasted and blame profit, but remember, it is government that licences and regulates the supply and price of water that you see being wasted.

Bureaucratic management cannot
1. make the scarcity of water go away, or
2. allocate water to its most important or urgent uses;
and central planning and bureaucratic management are all the government has to offer.

Whatever the defects of a system based on profit and loss, *how* is government going to be able to do any better in a) knowing and b) allocating water to its most urgent and important uses? It canít, and itís as simple as that.

Governmental ownership and control of water should be abolished.

http://blog.libertarian.org.au/2007/02/26/governments-water-shortage/
http://www.la.org.au/opinion/240810/water-down-government
http://www.la.org.au/opinion/011010/water-wizards-oz
http://www.la.org.au/opinion/111010/murray-darling-plan-pseudo-scientific-insanity
Posted by Peter Hume, Thursday, 14 October 2010 1:59:38 PM
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Water is now sold as a commodity, the buyers and sellers of which do not even have to use the water or even have any intention to do so.

There is probably even a futures (gambling) market involved.
Posted by Ho Hum, Thursday, 14 October 2010 4:36:26 PM
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I cannot believe how muddled Bruce is. Really the Government looking after anything, do not be so absurd!
One quick point in Victoria the Government made water tanks in the suburbs illegal some years ago and these are the people Bruce would put in charge?
You drip irrigate Bruce? Bully for you! Farmers do not waste water in the middle of the day at all they have to spray some crops to save them from being killed by the heat. Stick to your little garden and leave the big picture to the grown ups Bruce.
Oh and stop worrying about the "Big" irrigators they are not out to get you at all, that is all in your head.
Posted by JBowyer, Thursday, 14 October 2010 5:39:48 PM
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Mr J boyer. Do you know why the barages are still in place in SA.?
Would it make sense to let the tidal water open and close the murray mouth as it was meant to.
It seems a waste to me to let fresh water flow over these barrages to keep the mouth open.
What is the economics of having the mouth open at all times.
Posted by 579, Thursday, 14 October 2010 6:27:32 PM
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It defies me beyond belief why we are still not serious about recycling water.

Here is our most precious commodity, yet we use most of it only once.

When you look at water, we treat it to 'A-Grade' drinking standards. Billions of litres.

WE then proceed to wash the dog, the car, the boat, our cloths, we even use it to flush the toilet. Yet, we only consume about 2%. The other 98% is used once, then dumped. (appart from the bit that waters plants)

I liken this to baking a nice sponge cake.

You start out with the flour, the eggs, sugar, butter. You mix your cake, then bake it, allow it to cool, then you ice it.

Silly part is, we then just eat the icing and throw the cake away.

It really is a 'no brainer' in my view.

Imagine the difference if just 50% of what we use went back to be re-used again.
Posted by rehctub, Friday, 15 October 2010 5:59:34 AM
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