November 30th, 2012
What this means is the average price of water per household has increased by 16.2 percent, while average consumption has decreased by 7.9 percent. These rising costs are associated partly with increasing demand in other areas, with the agricultural industry having the biggest thirst. "The agriculture industry accounted for over half of Australia's total water consumption using 7,175 gigalitres which represented a 3 per cent increase from 2009-10.'' said Mr Lound. The situation is similar in New Zealand, with some regional councils placing limits on water use in an attempt to reduce demand.
Limiting water use is a controversial subject however, with the recent Murray-Darling basin plan in Australia still a thorny subject in many irrigation districts and regional towns. Things are just as divided across the Tasman, with the New Zealand First Party recently coming out in opposition to the concept of charging for water. According to Richard Prosser from the Party, “Water falls from the sky for nothing."
Rivers around the world are starting to get smaller however, with even huge rivers like the Colorado, the Yellow, the Murray-Darling, and the Ganges now regularly running dry. Large aquifers like the Ogallala in the United States and the Arabian in Saudi Arabia are also being drained at an increasing rate, with nations around the world all looking for their own management solutions.
While the cost of using water for households is technically free, local water utilities still charge for transportation, infrastructure, and service. According to a number of economists, free water is actually a very big problem around the world, because without a "price signal", people have no incentive to use less water in times of draught.
While the rising cost of household water may not be directly proportional to household use, overall supply and demand of this most essential resource is far from balanced. Only time will tell if the true cost of water consumption will be one limited to our hip pockets, or if a far bigger cost will be felt by households and farmers alike.