Thursday, March 13, 2008

WATER - March 20th, 2008

A recent program on BBC was concerned with the plague of bottled water, or more specifically the folly of paying more than the price of gasoline for it and the burden on the cities to dispose of the bottles. And that is with gas at nearly $8/gal. The water in question is hardly different from the tap water here, but there are clearly many thousands who think otherwise and are willing to bear the cost of the contrary delusion. In Madison, there are small problems with the water and lots of people who are buying water at scandalous prices, posing a major burden on our city for the disposal of the bottles. The difficulties with our water are minor, but real, and pure water is worth having, at a reasonable cost. And it is cheap to purify the mostly clean water that comes from our wells, but it would take an investment to create the cheapest way of delivering it, which is by a separate drinking water system. It could even pay for itself, at prices for the water far below the cost of bottled water and also saving the city large bills for nearly worthless bottles. In a real sense the realization that there is no reason why we need to flush our toilets, wash our cars & water our gardens with almost pure drinking water is nearly 50 years overdue. But we have never been willing to bear the cost of putting down a separate drinking water system. Most of that cost lies in tearing up the streets and laying the pipes. If we are willing to wait for it, then we can take advantage of the fact that we seem to be perennially tearing up the streets and repaving them. Every such project could lay pipes for pure water under the repaved street, linking them up over the course of time as the opportunity allows. Eventually the system would reach the site chosen for the purification plant. At that time we could start supplying the water to the places where the system already reached. Initially, we could charge the extortionate price of 10c/gal or so, reducing that price when more people were reached and more linked up. If that is too long to wait, we could accelerate the road repair schedule. The cost of the purification itself is trivial compared with the cost of the burden of the bottles.

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