An argument to charge more for water

A resident in Woodbury pays 88 cents for 1,000 gallons of water. If he or she uses a lot of water, say, for sprinkling the lawn, the price goes up — to $1.88, then $2.88, then $3.88 and so on, says Klayton Eckles, Woodbury’s public works director.

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But, using the terms of an economist, Eckles said the demand curve for water is inelastic. “The culture here is to have a nice lawn. If you have an irrigation system, you’ll pay the premium.”

When it comes to conservation, “you’re not going to get there by jacking up the rates,” he said, by way of explaining why Woodbury is launching some other efforts to conserve water.

It sounds like Robert Glennon thinks Woodbury should keep pushing the price north.

Glennon is a professor of law and public policy at Arizona State University and author of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It,” and he spoke at a Red River conference in Fargo this week. MPR News reporter Dan Gunderson filed this on the Statewide blog.

Glennon argues the free and easy approach to water is unsustainable.

He thinks we should use less and pay more because that’s the only way to avoid a national water crisis.

Water waste is everywhere Glennon points out, from green lawns in the desert southwest to Coca Cola making snow in Atlanta in the midst of a summer drought.

“We humans have an infinite ability to deny reality,” Glennon said.

Glennon says we should all pay more for the water we use to support better management of water supplies.