Editorial: Supply and necessity
As parts of North Carolina struggle with drought this summer and the stateís population outgrows the water supply longterm, what would you consider the most effective method of curbing water usage ó mandatory conservation measures or higher water rates?
The John Locke Foundation is pulling for higher water rates. ěPrices should ration water, not government,î said Roy Cordato, vice president for research at the foundation.
The subject came up at a water sustainability symposium held at N.C. State University last month. A recent edition of the foundationís Carolina Journal included an article on the symposium, at which several people advocated government measures such as incentives and mandatory restrictions to keep consumption down. An N.C. State survey of water customers found 62 percent of respondents would prefer outdoor watering restrictions to a $20-a-month increase in their water bills.
No surprise there. People would seldom choose to pay more for something. Faced with higher rates, consumers probably would cut back water use ó many by necessity. But is the more effective way to slow consumption also the fairer way? Should a natural resource like water be subject to the same free-market principles of supply and demand as tennis shoes and automobiles? One envisions senior citizens on fixed incomes scrimping on water while people with plenty of money continue to irrigate expansive lawns and fill swimming pools.
Actually, thatís already happening.
With the Yadkin River at our doorstep and the city having great water capacity, water sustainability seems like a distant worry for Salisbury. But the only constant is change. As North Carolinaís population grows and the demand for water increases, the state may need a combination of increased rates and government restrictions to ensure an adequate water supply. Weíve seen our share of droughts; we know. No amount of money can pull water out of a dry river bed. When water is scarce, it should be shared fairly, not according to income.