¨ As the UN marks the anniversary of the decision to make the right to water legally binding, the European Environment Agency has called for governments to charge the full price for water, to cut down waste.¨
I often wondered about this in New York City. Sure, people who own apartments pay for water but almost every rental (maybe every one?) includes water with the rent. People have no concept of the price of water and no incentive to save water. Of course, New York is probably the worst city in the developed world in terms of conservation (no recycling in large parts of the city, leaky pipes everywhere), but I was surprised that so many places in Europe have a similar model considering they use on average around 75% less water per capita. This isn’t some developed world problem either. In rural El Salvador where I was involved in installing a water system, everyone agreed that you must install water meters if you want to have any hope of maintaining a functioning system.
¨ Denmark serves as example for water reduction policies. Between 1993 and 2004 the country increased its urban water prices by 54% and invested significantly in infrastructure. Over a decade, daily water use per person fell by almost 20% to 125 litres, one of the lowest levels of any rich country.¨
Denmark was a country that already had one of the lowest per capita water consumption in the developed world, but was able to further reduce that cost by raising the price of water.
The EEA helpfully pointed out that expensive water cannot solve everything. The point is not to price people out of the water market. The point is to make people use the water they need and not more.