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Water Conservation

Economic Incentives For Water Conservation

As the availability of water becomes more restricted, the costs to both the provider and consumer are increased. In a situation unique to the water supply industry, providers are frequently placed in the position of trying to convince consumers to use less of the commodity that they supply. Most large water providers have departments dedicated to education of the public with regard to conservation. In general, these education efforts have been largely ineffective and conservation of freshwater resources has been best achieved through economic incentives. Water providers frequently provide rebates for those consumers that are willing to change from older technology to newer, such as low-flush toilets and modern washing machines, convert to water efficient landscaping, or otherwise demonstrate lower water usage. Greatest effect has been achieved through tiered pricing. In this pricing structure, users are charged higher rates for each successive unit, or block, of water used. The rate structure penalizes heavy users with greatly increased rates. This technique has been shown to be highly effective in reducing overall usage. In Tucson, Arizona, an increasing tiered price structure resulted in decreased usage of 26% over a three-year period. Additionally, some communities have implemented the use of water conservation monitors and water waste hotlines to penalize those that continue to waste the resource. Many communities currently limit the type and size of landscaping, the time and nature of outdoor water use, and in extreme cases, have completely banned outdoor water use during crisis periods.

Throughout history, the availability of water has been a vital factor in the rise and fall of human cultures. This is largely because water is a limiting factor for the carrying capacity for human activities in any region. It is crucial that humans learn to live within the limits of available natural resources, including the supply of fresh water. Because the supply of usable water is finite, the consumption per person must be reduced in regions that are using this resource excessively.



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David Goings


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Drip irrigation

—A method of irrigation utilizing small, low-flow emitters that are located at or above the plant root zone. Designed to reduce the quantity of water lost to evaporation.

Grey water

—Used wash water collected from sinks, laundry, etc. that is reused for irrigation. Grey water does not include toilet wastes.

Per capita usage

—The amount used by one person in a given amount of time.

Reverse osmosis

—A process for purification of water in which water is forced through a semipermeable membrane, retaining most ions while transmitting the water.

Tiered pricing

—A system of pricing in which unit quantities of a commodity are priced with increasingly higher rates, such that, higher rates of usage result in rapidly increasing costs for the consumer.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Verbena Family (Verbenaceae) - Tropical Hardwoods In The Verbena Family to WelfarismWater Conservation - Freshwater Resources, Water Consumption, Efficient Water Utilization Efforts, Economic Incentives For Water Conservation