I got my bill today and it turns out that there really is something cheaper than a Germanist these days.
My water bill for July reports that I consumed (not personally) 6100 cubic feet of water. This, to me, sounds like a tremendous amount of water. One cubic foot of water sounds like a lot, actually, were it to be dumped on one’s head. A hundred cubic feet of water would probably be hard for me to haul home from the store in our ten year old minivan and there is no way we could transport it in my little four door compact I drive to work.
And how much was I charged per hundred cubic feet of thie blessed, potable, stuff? 30 cents. 30 miserable cents— less than a Snickers bar. Less than a stamp. So my total water bill came to $20 in user fees plus a $10 fixed payment for the honor of being a customer. Let us all now make collective guesses why there might be the occasional water shortage in Utah or other western states. Perhaps because the price of water is a fifth (or so) what it should be?
Instead of wasting money on public service announcements, we could raise money and solve the water shortage by increasing the price of water. Water conservation would skyrocket! People would be stampeding for the latest gadgets in water waste reduction! Lawns would be replaced with lovingly cared for desert shrubs!
But what, you might ask, about the poor? How can they afford these higher water prices? After all, they have to have water, right? Well, that couldn’t be simpler. If we raise the marginal price of water, we could well afford to A) give away a few hundred cubic feet a month to every household to help those who just need water for basic needs and B) lower property taxes or C) lower the sales tax which is regressive anyway. And that fixed $10 fee, which is also a regressive tax, could be chucked. It would be very easy to make the marginal price of water rise while lowering the expenses of the poorest.
On the other hand, the farmers, sugar beet and otherwise, would be out of luck. One could keep on giving them the sweetheart pricing deal, but since they consume 90% of the water in the state you probably want to change their behavior to meaningfully affect water use. That would be ok with me. There are better ways to spend money than paying people to waste water.