Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Jay Z is Wrong, Water Service Is Not Free

Jay Z is Wrong, Water Service Is Not Free

Last week while promoting his new music service, Tidal, Jay Z made a well intended but nonetheless tone deaf statement, gushing about the beauty of supposedly “free” water service. While tap water may seem free to a rap mogul, those in Detroit who have been living without this essential service because they cannot afford to pay their water bills are singing a very different tune. In a seemingly unrelated development, the New York Times published an editorial that day claiming that water isn’t priced highly enough and thus isn’t properly valued. Both statements were wrong, and reflect some fundamental misconceptions about how our society views and values water.

We must restore aging, leaking infrastructure systems and better regulate industrial and agricultural water takings to prevent chronic over-extraction. We must recognize the impact of all water use—including industrial and domestic needs, and we must demand collective responsibility.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

While many of us are conditioned to turning on the tap and always finding water flowing from it, it’s crucial to note that water is a finite resource. We may pay fractions of a penny for a glass of tap water, but that water doesn’t magically find its way to our homes—it gets there through a complex infrastructure system that requires billions of dollars a year for upkeep.

Many of these systems were built around the same time that Henry Ford developed the first Model T, are reaching the end of their lifespans and are in desperate need of costly upgrades. In 2014, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), which provides federal funding to maintain safe drinking water, received $907 million in federal funding—enough to finance only 5 percent of what is needed.

While it’s easy to assume that raising water rates might compel consumers to conserve more, the reality is not so simple. According to Food & Water Watch analysis of water rates and usage, people do not drink less water or wash their clothes significantly less when their water rates increase. That’s because short of buying a new water-saving appliance, it’s just not possible to use significantly less water for basic health and sanitation. What’s more, when household consumption is only eight percent of total U.S. freshwater use, it is a red herring to suggest that raising household rates will solve our water crisis.

Moreover, doing so would place a disproportional burden on consumers when the actual source of the problem lies chiefly with corporate water abusers.

In the U.S., 52 percent of freshwater is consumed by industrial and commercial users, particularly for mining and energy production. Another 40 percent of that freshwater is used for irrigation, raising livestock and aquaculture facilities, according to 2005 U.S. Geological Survey data. Clearly, any realistic measures to conserve water should focus on these sectors.

We must find ways to cut back on industrial water consumption. To do so, the U.S. needs to develop and implement comprehensive watershed planning policies that prioritize water for local residents. Rather than building expensive pipelines to supply water for agribusiness to grow export crops like almonds and soybeans, or draining the Ogallala Aquifer to produce corn ethanol, we must ensure that water is not removed from watersheds faster than it can be naturally replenished. A comprehensive, sustainable water management plan would prevent the corporate export of water for profit—especially during times of drought when households are being asked to ration their use.

Just last week, protesters shut down the Nestlé water plant in Sacramento because it was bottling during a drought. California is, of course, suffering from the worst drought in recorded history, and consumers are being asked to cut down on their own water consumption, while industrial users continue to suck the land dry. Gov. Brown announced measures this week to curb the water crisis, but they do not address the state’s most egregious water abusers. When you consider the fact that residential water use is a mere drop in the bucket compared to industrial water habits, it makes absolutely no sense to expect households to solve this crisis.

It’s time for a reality check. Water service is not free, low prices are not to blame for the water crisis and climate change alone is not causing drought. The real culprit is a failure to align our water management policies with environmental and human needs.

We cannot price away our water woes. Instead, we must restore aging, leaking infrastructure systems and better regulate industrial and agricultural water takings to prevent chronic over-extraction. We must recognize the impact of all water use—including industrial and domestic needs, and we must demand collective responsibility.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

California’s Historic Drought Threatens the Future of Orca Whales

Fracking’s Most Wanted

Drought-Stricken California Exempts Big Oil and Big Ag from Mandatory Restrictions

People Have the Power - VOTE 2020

Climate-action nonprofit Pathway to Paris first launched in 2014 with an "intimate evening" of music and conversation after the People's Climate March in New York City.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heo Suwat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. sarote pruksachat / Moment / Getty Images

A national park in Thailand has come up with an innovative way to make sure guests clean up their own trash: mail it back to them.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The 2020 presidential election poses a critical test of climate conservatives' willingness to put their environmental concerns before party politics. filo / Getty Images

By Ilana Cohen

Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.

But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.

Read More Show Less
Headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva amid the COVID-19 outbreak on Aug. 17, 2020. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Read More Show Less
Exterior of Cold Tube demonstration pavilion. Lea Ruefenacht

By Gloria Oladipo

In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch