Symposium 2015: should all states mandate water conservation at some level?

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Not all states have mandated water conservation, but there are those that should implement it at some level, as water tables and underground aquifers are in the process of depletion due to drought and unfavorable environmental conditions in many states across the nation.   

In some states it will take many years to replace water due to higher demands and ever growing population centers, while other states have set in place water conservation projects and mandatory use restrictions. Good years of rainfall and snow accumulation restore water sources in places like the Rocky Mountains, but states in more arid environments depend on favorable weather to replenish vanishing sources. States like California have suffered the most because of over population and unfavorable weather, as well as resource management oversight and failure to accurately plan for inundated areas of population and agricultural areas where water is utilized at higher rates.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) has used surveys for states and other data to compile a model for states to use as guidelines for water conservation.  The AWE forwards compiled reports to each state’s legislative bodies for further examination. They have also used a grading system to show what states have a conservation plan in place as well as those that do not. The AWE wants to bring attention to states that have no plan and create an incentive for an exchange of ideas for water conservation solutions.  Management of fresh water resources is crucial to supporting economic development and future population growth.  The results of the AWE surveys indicate that water conservation laws and policies throughout the states greatly differ.  There are states with no pertinent policies and regulations, while there are others that have well thought out and ample plans.

An extensive range of  water conservation programs have been developed  throughout the United States and most utility companies in states, cities and counties have adopted water policies that are managed through various agencies within the states.  The states develop a platform based on the issues that face them concerning water use and conservation.  Concentration is placed on the measures that affect the current water conditions in specific areas of a state along with water conservation measures.  Most state water conservation measures include assignment of water matters to state agencies that are in charge of drinking water conservation and efficiency.  Regulatory measures are an integral part of a state’s platform and usually address water consumption policies that either meet federal standards or exceed them.

Conservation programs at the state level have water consumption regulations for toilets, showerheads, urinals, clothes washers, and spray valves.  Concerning building and plumbing issues, states have mandatory rules that require efficient products and materials for water use.  With actual water use, most water utilities have regulations and policies concerning actual water loss within a utility system, and they also require conservation in the water permitting process.  In the case of emergency drought situations, cities with conservation plans also enact mandatory and prescribed emergency schedules and methods for water use, which include additional plans for the reserving of potable (drinkable) water.

States also offer technical assistance for water conservation programs as well as financial assistance for urban water conservation programs through loan funds, grants and bonds.  Water consumer information and billing is also part of an overall conservation plan and includes matters concerning conservation programs that water customers can follow and utilize to save water and lower water bills.

The states that have mandated water conservation programs and have average to above average grades in water conservation programs  include California and Texas with grades of A-, Arizona,  B+;  Georgia, Washington,  and Rhode Island,  B;  Colorado , Nevada , New Hampshire,  New Jersey, Oregon,  Virginia and Wisconsin B-.  Eighteen other states fell in the C+ to C- range, and 19 in the D range. These figures are indicative of the importance of improvement across the board for almost every state, particularly for those states in the lower grade ranges.  With cooperative efforts with other states and agencies like the AWE, programs can be implemented that meet the water needs of a state while conserving this valuable resource.

States should mandate water conservation at some level, and state laws that offer strong water conservation policies can shape the reduction of water consumption in all 50 states.  The implementation of water conservation is critical as large portions of the Southwest and California are under severe drought conditions as is the Southeastern part of the country and the Midwest.  Other states will face water shortages in the coming years as well.  Even though there are states that have strong water conservation measures in effect, those states that are not part of intense programs will need them to support burgeoning communities and economic expansion.  Without such programs, water needs will be in a critical, short, and limited supply.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Water is important. It’s the essence of life and the center of so many activities we perform daily. Can we cook without water? What about our clothing? Cleaning? We absolutely use water for everything. Sadly, we chew more than we can handle. We waste water, at every cost that is. If we continue as prodigal sons, we’ll one day run out of a substance so vital. However, if each state was to mandate water conservation at some level, wouldn’t we preserve it?

That’s an absolute YES! Governing bodies should impose these rules, especially on specific types of water usage that is increasing in numerous cities and regions. To conserve water, it’s a continuous process. Facility bodies have a constant increasing fight, as they have to contend with heeding long term water conservation regulations. They are well aware of restrictions such as lawn and landscape irrigation during periods of droughts and also limited hours.

Why is there a strong need for this mandate to conserve water? Simply put, increasing growth. In some communities, especially large ones, water demands far outweigh supplies. An increasing population means pressure on drinking supplies. Additionally, in some cases of pollution, some ground water supplies have been contaminated and are forced to close. In cases where they do remain open, they usually undergo extensive and expensive treatment to ensure it’s potable.

There are alternative sources to fixing this problem. However, reclaimed wastewater and desalinated seawater might require very pricy new infrastructure and are flooded with issues. Therefore, to ensure that water remains available and affordable to everyone, it’s important that we get the hang of using less water to effectively do what we want.

 

Owatanna, MN Correspondent-No, all states should not mandate water conservation at some level. All mandates do is give bureaucrats power and authority over citizens and their money. Time and time again, government bureaucracy has proven to be wasteful, ineffective, and only good at making products and resources more expensive. The better option is to let free markets force individual consumers to make their own decisions regarding water conservation.

Many states have no water shortages at all. Mandating conservation when there is no crisis is comparable to performing surgery to heal a paper cut. Why should artificial restrictions be put in place to solve a problem that doesn’t exist?

For states in the desert southwest, water shortages are a real and growing problem. Here, the laws of supply and demand must be allowed to operate. If a free market price is determined by how many buyers want to buy the product (demand) in proportion to the readily available amount of that product (supply), either the cost of water will go up due to higher demand, or new supplies will be brought online by water producers.

If supply fails to increase sufficiently to meet demand, prices will go up. Consumers will make personal decisions on how much water to use based on their individual needs. To illustrate, if the cost of water doubles because of a supply shortage, I may decide to not water my lawn or wash my car and save that water for more important needs such as washing dishes or taking showers.

Higher prices will do a better job of promoting conservation than mandates. Allowing the free market forces to determine accurate water prices will result in voluntary reductions of consumption along with increased supplies in the long run as new and innovative ways to produce or obtain fresh water are developed.

Cartwright—I agree that mandates are problematic from a bureaucratic perspective, and I agree that the free markets should determine this.  I guess you could make an argument for a surcharge on excess water usage similar to the surcharge on gasoline that I proposed a few minutes ago.  This is a good way to influence consumption of water and the behavior of consumers when it comes to water usage.

But you can also influence consumers with incentives related to conservation in this case.  Let’s consider this.  I recently saw a toilet that had a sink atop the tank so that when you washed your hands the water drained into the tank which would then be used the next time you flushed the toilet.  I thought it was a pretty slick idea.  We do waste a lot of water when we wash our hands and take showers.  What if we could reclaim and reuse this water in the toilets in our own homes?  It would probably take some re-plumbing and some modifications but it could probably be done.  Would people be willing to invest in this effort if they received a tax break or a rebate from their water company based on the amount of water they save in a year’s time?  I imagine a lot of people might take advantage of this if you could make it worth their while.  Just something to think about.

How can we encourage people to conserve water?  Most people take water for granted.  They turn on the sink and the water is there.  They don’t really worry about it until the well goes dry, so to speak.  We need to work on educating the population on how to conserve water and the importance of doing so.  As a lot of places in the west have seen, you’re in a lot of trouble when your water resources become scarce.  Here again this is about influencing consumer behaviors.  We waste a lot of water to water the lawns so that we have pretty green grass.  This really isn’t an efficient or prudent use of water, particularly when it’s in short supply.  Perhaps homebuilders should consider alternative landscaping options that consume less water when building a development and homeowners consider alternatives to their lawns.  Personally, I favor putting down the artificial turf they use on some football fields.  I think it’s made of recycled tires.  It’s looks very real and requires no watering.  It’s pretty expensive, but if it saves on the water bill and you’re given some type of credit or incentive, it might become more prevalent.

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