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Letter: The Water Crisis

This is a letter to the editor sent during Tampa Bay's annual water crisis.

Perhaps I'm missing some subtle point but it seems to me there is a simple and fair solution to our water crisis. First, raise the price of water. Second, eliminate the legal barriers to conserving it.

If water becomes more expensive people will search for ways to use less as shown in the past with gasoline and energy. The people least hurt will be those who already use the least and those who use the most will feel the biggest pinch, certainly that's fair. The police can devote their time to preventing and punishing violent crime instead of arresting folks for watering their lawns, certainly that makes sense. Our chronic water shortage will continue unless we spend more money to develop supplies and what better source than income from the sale of water. If the price of water reflects the cost of providing it the whole situation will become self sustaining. Maybe someday we could even get the government completely out of the water supply business. If the same bureaucrats were responsible for providing us with toilet paper I'm sure we'd have frequent shortages of that too.

But even if the price goes up (which it will eventually anyway) our own laws prevent us from conserving water. Cisterns to collect rainwater, composting toilets, and gray water systems are generally outlawed by zoning and building codes. These systems are highly developed and can save a great deal of water yet the same people that beg us to conserve water will put us in jail if we use them. The present low price of water also helps make many of these systems uneconomical.

I'm probably whistling in the dark with these ideas. It's far more fun to call the police on your neighbors than to pay a little higher utility bill. It's good politics too, the office holders get to play hero for their stop gap solutions and get no blame for the long term problem. But water shortages will be with us forever unless we pay what it costs to provide and let each other conserve it however we like.