You’ll just have to drink less, even if you are willing to pay more

Hoover Dam and the ‘bathtub ring’ (NY Times photo)

Water is in the news, especially its scarcity.

Recently The New York Times published a 1,500-word article on this topic, datelined Lake Mead, Nev.

Never mind the credibility of the author, Michael Wines, was blown to hell by his second paragraph in which he says of the Colorado River: “The once broad and blue river has in many places dwindled to a murky brown trickle,” though everyone in the West knows that pioneers used to say of the silt-laden river: “too thick to drink and too thin to plow.” Never broad nor blue.

The article meanders through a series of factoids about drought, attempts to tap lower into Lake Mead for Las Vegas water, conservation, the historic pact that divvied up the river water, recycling and much more.

The article quotes John Entsminger, newly appointed head of the Las Vegas Valley Water District and likely heir to head the Southern Nevada Water Authority, as saying, “The era of big water transfers is either over, or it’s rapidly coming to an end. It sure looks like in the 21st century, we’re all going to have to use less water.”

The Wall Street Journal has a column talking about the shortage of water from one end of California to the other and how it is affecting homeowners, farmers and ranchers.

Jane Ann Morrison had a Review-Journal column about Entsminger’s qualifications to head up the water agencies. She too quoted Entsminger on the likelihood of Las Vegas having to get by with less. “The next chapter is not a discussion of how can we get more water, but how can we all co-exist with less.”

Everyone is wearing blinders. It is all about government allocating existing water supplies, building huge infrastructure, conservation and recycling sewage effluent.

No one but no ever suggests the one and only means of fairly allocating water to willing users: the free market.

I’ve quoted columnist and economist Thomas Sowell on this a couple of times before, but it bears repeating:

“There is no need for government officials to decide arbitrarily – and categorically – whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for particular crops to be grown in California with water artificially supplied below cost from federal irrigation projects. Such questions can be decided incrementally, by those directly confronting the alternatives, through price competition in a free market.”

No bureaucrat who wants to keep his job would ever suggest such a wild and crazy thing.