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March 27, 2008

Is being wasteful rational?

North Carolinians are being asked not to waste water. We're being asked to check for leaky pipes, not use water for nonessential purposes and just to generally conserve as much water as we can. Yet before the drought, why weren't we motivated to be just as careful with water? Listen

Dr. Mike Walden, North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, responds:

"Because waste is a relative concept. Let's go back nine years - 1999. We had Hurricane Floyd. We had water everywhere, and most of Eastern North Carolina was under water. You think people then worried about leaky pipes and not using water for nonessential purposes, and did we have water restrictions? Well, no. That's because we had too much water. The value of a gallon of water was very low. In fact, it was actually negative because we wanted to get rid of water. So then it would be silly for people to spend money on things in order to save water because we had too much of it. Now, of course, the tables are turned. We don't have enough. That means the water we do have is much more valuable. That means spending money or spending your time on doing things that will save water is much more valuable. And so when you say that we shouldn't waste, you should always say, 'Waste when?' It's a relative term and not wasting a resource makes the most sense when that resource is limited and very high in price."

Posted by Dave at March 27, 2008 08:09 AM