You may receive a water bill every month, but you’re not actually paying for water. You’re paying for the cost of service, and this free-rider problem is contributing to the worsening water crisis that threatens to dehydrate the US, author and law professor Robert Glennon argues in the Washington Post. Last year, metro Atlanta—home to 5 million people—came within 90 days of watching its principal water reserves dry up, and one Tennessee hamlet ran out of water entirely.
More than 30 states are now fighting with their neighbors over water, Glennon notes, and a surging US population means increasingly less to go around. Proposed solutions range from the expensive (desalination of ocean water) to the just plain icky (reuse of municipal waste). Some may find the idea of charging for water itself immoral, but Glennon counters, “Precisely because water is a public—and exhaustible—resource, the government has an obligation to manage it wisely.”