A recent article in The New York Times voiced an opinion that many readers of SWS might agree with, but is likely unpopular with the average citizen: Water is too cheap.
The article points out that the cost of water across the country is arbitrary and not dictated by any kind of market logic; farmers pay very little although they account for 80% of the country's water consumption, and rates do not correlate to water’s replacement cost—the example given is that Fresno, Calif., gets less than 11 in. of rain a year, but a family of four using 400 gal a day pays a monthly water bill of $28.26. In Boston, where rainfall exceeds 40 in., the same family would pay $77.73.
Even what we do pay, the article says, is not enough—our water rates often do not even cover the cost of delivery or infrastructure maintenance, rehabilitation and construction.
Adjusting the market price of water can ensure that we do not run into even greater water scarcity than we already are facing. Water is certainly a commodity, but we need to get used to the idea of paying fair market value for it—and the longer we wait, the higher the price will be, and not just in dollars.