Lately, water shortages, and in particular rural droughts, have been in the news. While the farmers in many regions certainly are suffering, and there are definitely enough meaty economic issues around farmers’ current water allocations and associated issues, I want to concentrate on economic issues around water use by (mainly urban) households, and what role demand management should play.
For the most part, New Zealand has heaps of water. Yet in Wellington, where I live (for instance) sprinkler usage is currently rationed, and there is talk of an all out sprinkler ban if a big downpour doesn’t happen soon (the recent trickles are only holding things off for a while). That is because the main sources of drinking water in the region – the water catchment area in the rimutukas (near Wainui), the Hutt River near Kaitoke, and the Aquifers under the Hutt Valley, are all at about the limit of what they can give without incurring major damage, due to the recent low water flows.