More perverse incentives on water

In response to water restrictions and the prospect that all watering of gardens might soon be banned, we investigated putting in a grey water system. Such systems take water used in showers, baths and washing machines and water your garden with it. It sounds like a good idea.

Anyhow, apart from the fact that to replumb the house would be a major renovation, it turns out that we wouldn’t generate much water this way. Why? Well, we have a super-water efficient front loading washing machine. It maybe uses a third or less of the water of top loaders. So in order to make a grey water system viable we would have to get rid of that and buy a high water using machine! Yet another reason why pricing rather than restrictions is the way to go.

4 thoughts on “More perverse incentives on water”

  1. Joshua, there is a lot of research that suggests water use is inelastic to pricing.

    Not sure how this example shows pricing is better than restrictions.

    All pricing will do is ensure that those with high incomes can consume as they will. Those with low incomes suffer.

    Sounds like a recipe for exacerbating the wealth divide we already experience in this country due to the reductionist belief in markets and pricing as perfect allocatin methods


  2. No, this is just a reason to regulate more than garden watering. The ‘grey water’ scheme is only designed to stop the stupidity of pouring drinking water onto gardens. It does nothing about the stupidity of pouring drinking water onto dirty clothing, especially in unneeded amounts.

    Any sensible Australian government would have phased out top loaders years ago. (They don’t even wash clothes well and they break down regularly.) And any sensible Australian government would stop putting drinking water in the plumbing system at all; why not put recycled water in the plumbing system and rely on bottled water to drink?

    Yes, sensible pricing may do what the government failed to do with top loaders, albeit haphazardly. But how will sensible pricing solve the broader infrastructure problem of our plumbing system. As you noted, it’s the high cost of replumbing that’s the real barrier to grey water systems. What’s the economic sense in using water pricing to force everyone to replumb, when the government could avoid the need for that by switching to non-potable recycling water in the mains water supply?


  3. Efficient front loaders still require 50-60 litres of water per load. Our three to four loads per week (no kids) is sufficient to keep our mid-size front garden nourished. My sister (3 growing children) averages 10-14 loads per week. That’s 500-700 litres per week recycled … sufficient to maintain an average garden.
    Seems like a lot of water to me …


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