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Water a New Topic in Environmental Economics

It seems everything these days is affected by the latest downturn in the economy. From the housing market, to consumer buying, to environmental and urban economics, the financial crisis has everyone looking for ways to save money in some way, shape, or form. A new article out from Matthew Kahn has those same consumers thinking about water as a basic need – and how it is slowly being threatened.

The Southwest United States is known to be a dry, arid region. Water supplies there are facing droughts, and therefore slowly being threatened of drying up. Water is such an important basic element of life that without the water supplies, the region couldn’t survive in a number of areas. The article discusses the growth in population and jobs in the Southwest. One economist quoted in the article states that “allowing water prices to reflect scarcity would take care of this problem.” The problem he refers to is the diminishing water there. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute says that “green lawns and unlimited swimming pools and inefficient irrigated agriculture can’t be sustained.”

The article states that one way of looking into this problem is to be creative in finding ways to use other water sources. One example would be to re-use wastewater. Other ideas are “policies to encourage more efficient water use” and “efforts to coordinate water policy at local, state and federal levels, and planning to help water utilities adapt to climate change.” The effort to use water efficiently and look into the newest water technologies for home and business may also be key. Raising the price on water will hurt the poor – and everyone needs water to survive. Perhaps the answer would be to better use and conserve the water we have.

One way to do this is to identify hidden – and obvious – water wastes. For example, traditional reverse osmosis systems waste an incredible amount of water for every gallon of drinking water they produce. The important thing will be to find and eliminate these wastes. For example, the Evolution water system can provide drinking water while reducing harmful contaminants. It uses electricity to exchange ions in the purification process rather than chemicals and wastes 90% less water than reverse osmosis. Just by making one pot of coffee, a traditional reverse osmosis system can waste almost 11 gallons of water according to one video. While refilling it’s tank, the Evolution system wastes no water. 90% less water waste is huge and would be a strong beginning to solving the problem facing our region.

Saving water means saving the environment from a threatening predicament. While the article mentioned above focuses on an economic impact from the disappearance of water sources, the health effects are even more worrisome. To read more on this topic, click here.