Arnold Kling  

Water Usage

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Lynne Kiesling writes,


our water use has not gone up in 20 years. If we paid prices for water that reflected the true cost of its use, and if farmers could transfer their property rights over water to non-agricultural users, think how much less water we could be using than we did 20 years ago.

In the fixed-coefficients model of environmentalists, water use per person would remain constant, and we would run out of fresh water. Instead, even with poor institutional arrangements for conserving water, our economy has evolved in the direction of lower water use per capita.

For Discussion. The U.S. geological survey credits "advances in technology in irrigation and power generation" with enabling us to conserve water. Which technologies have been most important?


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COMMENTS (3 to date)
Eric Krieg writes:

Not low flow toilets!

Eric Krieg writes:

"About 195 Bgal/d, or 48 percent of all freshwater and saline-water withdrawals for 2000, were used for thermoelectric power. Most of this water was derived from surface water and used for once-through cooling at power plants. About 52 percent of fresh surface-water withdrawals and about 96 percent of saline-water withdrawals were for thermoelectric-power use. Withdrawals for thermoelectric power have been relatively stable since 1985."

This is very misleading. If a powerplant draws in water for cooling, it isn't "used" in the same sense that water for agriculture or drinking is used. The power plant most likely releases most or all of that water back into the body of water from which it was taken.

In the "most" case, when you have a cooling tower some of the cooling water is lost to evaporation, maybe 30% worst case scenario. Even then, 70% would be release back into the reservoir from which it was taken.

The only difference from the water released from the water drawn is the temperature of that water.

triticale writes:

Certainly not those stupid toilets you have to flush twice.

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