Your water footprint

Written By: - Date published: 6:42 pm, April 5th, 2009 - 10 comments
Categories: Environment - Tags:

How big is your water footprint?

Find out here.


10 comments on “Your water footprint”

  1. The Baron 1

    Oh dear, it appears that the left hand isn’t talking to the right at the Standard!

    First off we have the gleefully pessimistic RedLogix telling us that metering water is a silly idea because reducing water consumption plays into the evil, right wing agenda of water privatisation (I spy the left’s favourite boogeyman!)…

    … and then we have the oh so optimistic all_your_base trying to get us to reduce water consumption to save the planet… Quick, silence all_your_base before he gives more ammunition to the privatisation agenda!

    Once he is gone, perhaps RedLogix can explain how you can encourage the efficient use of water without pricing signals or writing legislation about showerheads – zing!

    • RedLogix 1.1

      There is absolutely no contradiction between the two posts.

      Many Councils have been running reasonably successful water conservation campaigns, relying on a mix of education and exhortation. Most people are capable of modifying their behaviour simply because they are informed and motivated to do better. I’m surprised that you believe that people have to be paid or bribed to do the right thing… like we are all children or something.

      Over recent years many people are slowly learning to be smarter about how they personally use water. The biggest effect has been a real trend for gardeners to mulch a lot more, and water more deeply but less often. That alone has very usefully cut into the summer peaks that we used to see in the 1980’s and 90’s.

      Good low flow showerheads (of which I am the owner of six) work really well. Overall their water savings alone (not counting their significant electricity use reduction) are about equivalent to, or better than, the savings effect of metering. Yet a showerhead costs about $250, whereas water meters are about $500 installed… so you work out which is better value.

      Funny how the right objected so loudly to planned regulation to encourage low flow showerheads, but have nothing to say about the mandatory introduction of metering.

  2. I wasn’t aware that all contributors on The Standard had to agree with one another – there’s no single editorial line here.

    • lprent 2.1

      Correct. Although The Baron is incorrect in this case – there is no incompatibility between the two positions – he simply isn’t bright enough to figure that out.

      Each author does their own stuff, and are known to disagree with each other. Personally I disagree with everyone as a matter of course. Sadly that always means that I wind up agreeing with at least one or more of the other contributors. It is so hard to be different.

      The most we tend to cooperate on it is moderation of the trolls and other assorted graffiti generators. Even there there are distinct differences in how each handles it. I would say that if you are a troll it pays not to have IrishBill see your comment first. He would make a good hanging judge.

      The same happens with the commentators. It is quite interesting how you can see the ones with native intelligence move their arguments over time. I’m excluding the ones who seem to take their opinions from the side of a carton – Johnty Rhodes for instance. But even they tend to adapt eventually to survive in this environment.

  3. ripp0 3

    So far as I round here the council caps residential water usage. A figure springing to mind is 200Mt(?) pa. Per household. More one can have at, I presume, a flat rate charge.

    Personal logistics would thus suggest that users determine what they use for all ‘downstream’ activities, so to say.

    On RNZ’s Worldwatch this morning there was a fellow called Beddington – something or other authority in the UK(sustainablility I think) and one of the contributors there talked well of showerhead (water) savers.. It occurs to me then, that both methods merit consideration.

    And that both authority – central government, local government, whatever – and individual water users are enabled to make the best of public/private needs.

    now for a peek at the water footprint thingie..

  4. RedLogix 4

    The marginal cost of producing drinking water is in the range of 4-8 cents/m3. This usually consists of costs due to treatment chemicals, electricity and waste sludge disposal.

    The total cost of supplying it across a whole city is in the range of 50-100 cents/m3. The fixed costs of plant, pipes, people, operational systems and asset managment is by far the dominant factor.

    This means that whether you use 1m3 or 1,000,000m3, 90% of the cost of providing the service to you is the same. This is why charging a flat cost to all ratepayers is actually very fair. A ‘user pays’ model based on usage makes no sense.

    Because of population growth most cities need to add to their sources from time to time. These tend to be expensive one off projects, but they do typically serve the city for many, many generations. They are a vital long-term asset.

    Of course metering does produce a one-off 10-20% reduction in household use. For Wellington that would amount to about 20 million litres/day (MLD). The cost of the meters is about $80m, ie the incremental cost of the save is $4/MLD.

    Low flow showheads could produce about the same saving, for $40m, ie $2/MLD.

    By contrast a new storage dam and treatment plant would cost around $160m, but likely have a capacity of around 150 MLD, ie close to $1/MLD.

    Metering is a nonsense from both an equity and economic point of view.

  5. infused 5

    A good piece from RedLogix right there. Always thought metering was stupid. Glad someone did the numbers.

  6. The Baron 6

    Oh come now – that was (admittedly a cruel) attempt at pointing out an opposing viewpoint with at least some levity…

    At risk of being labeled a cretin again, RedLogix maths make sense about fixed versus marginal costs, but only until the point of “reinvestment” in additional capacity. Such additional capacity is required when that fixed infrastructure reaches its limitations, which will inevitably happen in a growing area without any realistic control upon usage. At that point of reinvestment, the “marginal cost” of that final litre is as huge as is required to build the next tranche of fixed assets. So – I see your point, but your marginal cost analysis assumes infinite capacity at that marginal cost, and therefore risks leading you down a garden path…

    Nevertheless, the rub of the issue is what is more effective at controlling excessive use, and therefore maximising the use of the current base of fixed assets without building more capacity. Two options:

    – Well meaning education campaigns…
    – Or effective price signals (the ultimate educator).

    Note that presumably that by moving water to user pays, there is a saving in the fixed cost of rates – i.e. that cost has been supplanted by a different mechanism. You only need to pay once of couse! And hey, it saves on those well meaning, but ultimately ineffective education campaigns (which is the point that we ultimately differ on!).

    The simple point of all this is that somehow, water has to be paid for. I argue that water metering is not an evil plot to price for privatisation; rather, a more realistic and effective manner of controlling behaviour to maximise asset use than levying through rates. Education is unlikely to do that as efficiently.

    • The Baron 6.1

      Though I am open to the criticism that this posting is now in the wrong place… oh well, the initial dig was worth it.

  7. insider 7

    A sensible water company conerned about its customers and subject to some competition would be out fitting low flow showerheads without or at low cost because they would recognise the financial benefits all around in a competitive environment. QUestion is, why aren’t they? Because there is no competition and no incentive

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