A Market-Based Solution to California’s Water Shortage
California’s water crisis – and Governor Jerry Brown’s draconian response to it – could go a long way toward uniting middle class and elite urbanites in a revolt against political favoritism run amuck.
As Shikha Dalmia explains, “The best — and most sustainable — solution to California’s water woes would be full-bore markets in which prices can rise and fall with supply and demand. Under such a system, depleting water reserves would have led to price increases long ago, producing an automatic incentive to conserve. More importantly, this would have clearly signaled growing scarcity, spurring new technologies for affordable water generation. All of this would have allowed consumers and businesses to make small adjustments over time without letting the shortage reach a crisis point.”
“Moving overnight to a system of market-based water pricing is probably not doable,” she continues. “But if California has to make emergency cuts, it would make sense to impose the biggest cuts on the biggest users — which means the deepest cuts for fish-rescuing environmentalists, followed by water-hogging farmers, followed by residential users. Instead, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is doing the exact opposite.”
The constituencies being hit the hardest by Brown’s mandatory water usage reduction order are rich enclaves like Beverley Hills and Newport Beach, and middle class urban residents who already pay the highest rates for water, but use the least when compared to other groups.
Those outside California may not remember that what ultimately led to Governor Gray Davis’ successful recall was his support for tripling the annual vehicle license fee. Californians will put up with a lot from politicians, but making it exorbitantly expensive to enjoy basic comforts like driving and water consumption could be just the disruption it takes to break the liberal stranglehold on state government and implement the kind of market-based reforms Dalmia is promoting.
We’ll see if Governor Moonbeam gets the hint, or sacrifices millions of people’s well-being for the sake of his beloved environmental movement. If he indulges the latter, there could be an opportunity for another California taxpayers’ revolt like the one that put a stop to annual property tax spikes in the 1970s.