Austerity and your water bill

shack FINAL2

ABOVE: This is where I live. I make a living by searching the desert for meteorite fragments, which I sell on e-bay. My main companions are rattlesnakes and UFOs. My only connection with the real world is that satellite dish. Just as nothing ever happens out here, anything can.

Just kidding. Actually I do live in a desert (Arizona) and even though water here is scarce, the local utility companies charge much less for water than do utility companies in parts of the USA that have abundant water.

For example, a family of four in Las Vegas NV using 100 gallons per person per day will pay on average $32.93 a month, compared to $72.95 for the same amount of water in Atlanta, which has more than ten times the amount of average annual rainfall as Las Vegas.

Indeed, even though I live in a desert, I pay half as much for water as do people who live on the edge of the Great Lakes, which are the largest bodies of fresh water in the world, comprising 95,160 square miles, or one-fifth of all the fresh water on the surface on the earth.

Why do I pay half as much?

Because the water infrastructure in AZ (dams, canals, pipelines, etc.) was built fifty years ago or more before austerity mania consumed the planet. It was built with federal funds that the U.S. government created out of thin air. The Central Arizona Project, Hoover Dam, California’s State Water Project, Colorado’s Big Thompson Project, and so on were all paid for by U.S. taxpayers the U.S. government.

water 01

Meanwhile in places with plenty of water (e.g. the Great Lakes region) there was, comparatively speaking, less historical demand for federally funded water infrastructures.

As a result, by the time local water infrastructures were needed, the USA had adopted austerity mania, such that water infrastructures had to be locally financed. This means corruption, shoddy workmanship, poor maintenance, ever-higher water bills, and a growing number of catastrophes like Flint Michigan, where the local water has caused tens of thousands of kids to have irreversible brain damage.

flint water

Detroit citizens (the poor ones anyway) are having their water cut off, despite being near the edge of Lake Huron, which is over 200 miles long, 183 miles wide, and 750 feet deep.

Arizona has 128 lakes and ponds, whereas Massachusetts has almost 3,000. And yet, a family of four using 100 gallons per person each day will pay on average $34.29 a month for water in Phoenix, compared to $65.47 for the same amount in Boston. (And Boston gets almost seven times as much rain, in inches, as does Phoenix.)

Moreover, in places where the water infrastructure was constructed using local funds, the less water consumption there is, the higher the water rates climb. (Someone has to pay back the endless debt from all those bond sales.) Therefore, as industries move overseas, causing towns and cities to die, local water rates go up to compensate for the loss in revenue. Water sales in Milwaukee dropped 41 percent from 1976 to 2008, primarily because water-intensive breweries and tanneries went out of business, or left town. As a result, water bills rose by almost the same percentage.


Santa Fe NM already has one of the highest water rates in the USA. Because water is scarce, and current groundwater use is unsustainable, the city of Santa Fe is building the Buckman Direct Diversion to tap water from the San Juan-Chama diversion. Since this is a non-federal project, the $187 million cost is being jointly paid by the city of Santa Fe and the county of Santa Fe. With interest charges and whatnot, this means it will never be paid off. Either that, or the city and county of Santa Fe will have to impose massive austerity to get their overall expenses under control.

Today all the poverty and inequality is sustained by the Big Lie that the U.S. government is “broke,” and needs tax revenue. The Big Lie continues because everyone uses it for his own ends. Right-wingers use it as an excuse to demand cuts in social programs. Left-wingers use it as an excuse to demand increases in taxes.

What have the technology, the manpower, the materials, and the money to solve any water problem that faces us.

The only thing we lack is the will to stop believing the Big Lie.



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