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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

What Is Water Worth?

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: water, water crisis, water supply, bottled water, drinking water, rivers, ecosystems, utilities, environment, Blue Revolution, Keith Goetzman,

Liquid gold?

It’s time to confront our long-held, deeply ingrained belief that water should be forever free, Cynthia Barnett contends in her new book Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis, which recently came out on Beacon Press.

“The tradition of free water has been fundamental since ancient times—as absolute as free air, or the right to take in mountain vistas,” she writes. But this notion has finally run up against finite supplies and a hard reality: free water encourages waste, in part because, well, it’s free. Agriculture, businesses, governments, and individuals alike have little incentive to cut down on their use. Barnett suggests that “it’s time to at least listen to what the economists have to say,” but don’t expect politicians to lead the charge:

Barnett suggests that international water advocates who bring water access to the poor are doing important work, but that U.S. water activists could stand to branch out in their targets in helping to create a new “water ethic”:

Look for a review of Blue Revolution in the Jan.-Feb. 2012 Utne Reader.

Source: Blue Revolution 

Image by koshyk, licensed under Creative Commons.