No rain in Melbourne but insanity

Insanity reigns in Melbourne as the drought continues and we move to Stage 3 water restrictions. What these restrictions do is dictate how we use water. The most imposing is that we can only water our gardens on two days a week (for us, as an even numbered household that means Tuesday and Saturday). But not just any watering just watering with a hose. And not just any hose but a hose with a trigger attachment. And not just any time that day but between 6am and 8am and between 8pm and 10pm.

So this morning I was up at 6am and out watering plants individually for an hour. And all I could think of was how can we be putting up with this imposition by a government that does not even have the decency to charge us at least the full marginal cost of our water use. You see, water use is supplied at a price clearly below costs. Hence, to combat over-use, draconian policies are enforced.

Now I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that all this has got us thinking about water conversation. We have contacted people of about various forms of recycling but I suspect the demand for those services are also outstripping supply. So I cannot imagine this happening soon.

What will happen to us when school starts and time pressures prevent all this manual watering? It would be so much better if we could just choose between paying more for water and having a living garden altogether.

And before you object as to whether this is simply because we can pay, this will impact on others too. What is a religious Jewish family supposed to do if they live in an even numbered house and restricted to watering on Saturday’s? What is an elderly person with arthritic pain supposed to do?

Why not do the alternative and tax households for the cost of watering and pour the resulting revenues into forms of water conservation that will be more sustainable? It is going to be far more sustainable, politically and economically, than the current state of affairs. For me, I want to contact a concreter and pave the lot. Won’t that be good for the environment?

4 thoughts on “No rain in Melbourne but insanity”

  1. The time restrictions are there to enforce sensible watering practice. Watering at sunny times is a stupid way to water: too much water ends up evaporating immediately. Similar points could be made about the trigger restrictions and the ban on sprinklers. How many times have you seen morons setting up a sprinkler so that half the water doesn’t even land on the lawn?

    Water pricing is a good way to deal with the problem of limited supply. But the distinct problem of mindless or lazy waste of water – alas – is not amenable to market forces. People are too stupid (and wealthy) for that.

    To answer your last question, it may or not be good for some aspects of the environment, but it would certainly be good for our city’s water supply. Australians have an irrational addiction to lawns, given our climate. Water pricing may solve that. Enforcing sensible watering procedures may solve it too. (As may irrational religious proscriptions, albeit capriciously.)


  2. Too wealthy? If one chooses to purchase a good at a fair price, they may do with it what they will. I can’t see why my opinion would hold any water with them (ahem).

    Waste is really in the eye of the beholder. Charge a fair a price, then if the before mentioned moron wants to waste water they can also hand over a princely sum that can be redistributed.

    I would have thought the real debate would be pigouvian tax or pricing mechanism? Or are they essentially the same thing in this case?


  3. Ah economics. Everything’s in the eye of the beholder. What’s a more sensible? (a) Ban pouring drinking water on hot concrete?; or (b) Twiddle our thumbs waiting for a government to commit suicide by charging a fair price for drinking water and then wait for the idiots who like pouring drinking water on hot concrete to decide that it’d be smarter to spend their money on a second Toorak tractor instead?


  4. Regarding any debate between the a pigouvian or pricing solution, I’d imagine that political concerns (perhaps unsurprisingly) would dominate economic concerns. A pigouvian tax might be a way for a government to attempt to both have and eat its cake – claiming that they’re successfully providing cheap water but that excessive consumption incurs additional costs.

    I’d be interested to see whether voters would prefer this to simply pricing water more accurately (assuming they had to choose one of the two, of course).


Comments are closed.