Water On The Brain

Dr. David Zetland discusses water markets and water economics. We learn that, instead of turning water into wine, our modern-day saviors must turn water into accountable behavior.

(1:18) Mitch introduces Dr. David Zetland, economics professor at Leiden University College. (2:16) David briskly walks us through humanity's drive to get useful water on demand, whether it be at the root of an irrigated crop, or at the 30th floor of the Bellagio in Vegas. (7:44) We approach water markets from David's "2x2" mental model: understanding how to manage water based on whether it is a) inclusive vs. exclusive, and b) rival vs. non-rival (or, subtractive vs. sharable). He shares how this model helps us understand where responsibilities and actions lie, whether it's a bottle of water or an aquifer being tapped by several farmers. Again here, the ongoing Telekinetic theme of "tragedy of the commons" is addressed. (13:57) We discuss "induced demand" in water economics, a familiar phenomenon to some of our listeners. David notes the example of early-settled Southern California importing palm trees as an illusion of water abundance, when in fact SoCal has virtually no native water to offer. He also brings up Vegas, and how the political efforts encouraging housing development expose induced demand, because naturally any new home built is expected to have a pool, lawn, and other water-rich amenities that ought not to exist in the desert. The topic leads us into water pricing (18:16), and the complication of pricing water delivery, rather than pricing water itself. We make reference to the gas tax as an example of wrong pricing getting out of control. (26:46) Mitch's hot take: we (America) can't educate or incentivize itself out of unsustainable water behaviors, and we can only get the necessary change by pinpointing and allowing for "minimum viable catastrophes", rather than attempting to triage or bolster the communities who stand to suffer them. David argues we've already done that by accident (e.g. the Katrina & Sandy disasters), and we still don't take the issues seriously enough. He proposes instead that external funding & support for disaster prevention or infrastructure maintenance should be commensurate with the efforts made by the local & most directly impacted communities. (35:07) David offers up his free, easy-reading book "Living With Water Scarcity", which can be found at https://www.kysq.org/lwws/.