Water conservation does not work
November 27, 2013
OPINION By GARY KIRKLAND
A water company is comparable to an oil company. Both companies provide vital liquids. An oil company can and does go half way around the world, dig the petroleum out of the ground, ship it to a refinery, convert into products people need and use, transport it to neighborhoods and sell it an expensive, although affordable price. They do it all and still make a profit with competition right across the street.
The Atascadero Mutual Water Company (AMWC) doesn’t seem to provide water unless it falls on the company’s head. Every time a drought occurs, AMWC sends notes telling customers to conserve water because of the drought. Oil companies never send notes to customers saying conserve gasoline because of a shortage. In fact, customers can buy as much gasoline as they wish to pay for.
How does a water or oil company make money to pay its bills and employees? They sell their product. Water companies sell water. Oil companies sell oil.
AMWC does not pay dividends and has rarely, if ever, reduced monthly usage bills over the last 35 years. Oil company stock pays nice dividends.
The amount of water on earth is a constant. No shortage of water exists on earth. Over 75 percent of the earth’s surface is covered in water, some of it very deep. Reverse osmosis is an effective way to convert salt water to fresh water.
About five years ago, the Mississippi River flooded near St. Louis, Missouri to the point that statues of Lewis and Clark were partially submerged. That fresh water was rushing to the ocean. Various water companies exist from Atascadero to the Mississippi. Oil companies built a pipeline all the way across Alaska from north to south, some of the most inhospitable land on earth. The Atascadero Mutual Water Company has not even attempted to bring water from the Pacific Ocean, very close by, with millions of liters of water.
What are the differences between these two types of companies?
The water company is a monopoly for delivery of piped water to people in Atascadero. The water must be potable, or people will become sick. Oil companies are not monopolies. Their products must meet the quality demands of their customers. They compete for customers. AMWC has guaranteed customers. They discourage customers from buying and using water. How does the water company make money doing that? A good company would renounce their monopoly. Weren’t monopolies illegal and evil? Yet, there are at lease eight monopolies in Atascadero including the water, electricity, natural gas, cable, trash, fire and police. The water company should give up their monopoly and seek new customers from other water companies.
An example of a missed opportunity was when an earthquake hit Paso Robles. Reports indicated the city lost 25 percent of their water storage capacity. The city instituted water restrictions. This was an excellent chance for AMWC to offer water to Paso at a premium and use the profits to develop other sources of water for the next drought. Water companies should compete with each other for more customers. With competition comes innovation, such as use of water trucks or putting in more pipelines from their water companies. This gives customers a choice.
How do customers ensure there is enough gasoline at the gas station? If customers save gas, it goes bad and vehicles won’t go anywhere. What customers have to do is use the gas they have and buy more. This encourages oil companies to find and produce more. The same is true with water. If customers don’t use water, they die and water companies go out of business.
Conservation does not work. More consumption is the answer to a water shortage.
Gary Kirkland is an Atascadero resident, 35-year-old stockholder in the Atascadero Mutual Water Company and president of the San Luis Obispo County Libertarian Party.