Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tragedy of the Waters

Water is one of the earth's most precious commodities. It is often one of the most abused resources on earth as well. Which doesn't make sense if it is so precious and is the only reason that life can exist. If water means life, then why is preserving and using it responsibly such a huge issue in the sustainability playing field?

Many people don't think about how their water reaches their tap because they don't have to. Water districts in developed societies provide water to their people in managed and mismanaged manners. But municipal water isn't the hugest impairment to sustainable water use. It is in fact, agriculture that uses the largest proportion of water world wide. This makes a good deal of sense since everyone need to eat and all food is dependent on water to grow. Agricultural centers in California and around the US receive huge discounts on the water that they use for their crops and nearly have unlimited access to water. This kind of mentality has led commercial and small farmers to over exploit their resources. In their defense, food is so cheap that they have to grow much more food or grow water intensive cash crops. The agricultural industry is proving to be our generations major Tragedy of the Commons.

We can't stop growing food just because agriculture uses a lot of water. That would be ridiculous. As population continues to rise, more resources are going to be needed to sustain the population. Or at least at our current use and evaluation of resources. Relying on only technical solutions to solve our problems is almost as ridiculous as stopping agriculture. The biggest challenge to the sustainability challenge with water is the fact that people are so set in their ways and would rather find some complex, expensive, scientific way of fixing their problems instead of evaluating what they could do to change their consumption. Like I said earlier, municipal water supply is not a huge proportion of water use. Ideally, the agricultural sector would just start growing less water intensive crops and crops that suit the regions where they are being grown in. That is not going to happen fast enough to help the problems at hand. What would help is changing consumption patterns of the average consumer. Instead of buying almonds grown in Central California, they could buy fresh asparagus from their local farmer's market. There are so many solutions if we really take the time to think about it and try to change our habits. But it's hard and that's why we always desire a technical solution. Unfortunately, the Tragedy of the Commons has struck our water supply and we need to find ways to change society so we do not run out of fresh water.

I think that there are some great and ideas for mutual coercion to help shape our consumption patterns regarding water. Grocery stores could drastically raise the price of water intensive crops compared to crops that require less water. The option of buying food like almonds is still available, but at a much higher price. People will be more likely to purchase lower priced goods especially if they learn that they have a smaller water footprint. This coercive action would reduce consumption of water intensive crops in a sneaky way that will also send messages to water intensive farmers to grow less. And growing less of these foods will continue to make the price rise and make these foods even less appealing. As for municipal use, some water districts are starting use graduated scale for rates for their users. You can use as much water as you want, but you will have to pay a higher price for it. It would be wise for people to not use water so they can save money and the precious resource that is water. Mutual coercion is actually a great idea for water management.

WATER you going to do to help reduce the common tragedy that water supplies face?

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