Germans are "too good at conserving water" (what?!), says Wall Street journal

brondell simple flush dual flushing toilet system photo

Is there such a thing as overdoing conservation?

Sometimes life is unfair. If we succeed in avoiding the worst of global warming by changing how we do things, such as by switching to clean energy sources and stopping deforestation, those who are against those measures will say: "See, nothing's happening, we did all this for nothing."

This backward way of looking at things is at the center of a recent Wall Street Journal piece that more or less tries to convince the reader that Germans are pointlessly frugal and conserving water too effectively. The author looks for all kinds of ways that this zealous conservation ethic can be a bad thing (some sewer pipes are too large and aren't getting enough wastewater!), rather than look at how it's a good thing that should be nurtured and used as an example for the rest of the world. If there are problems, it's better to solve those problems than to try to encourage people to increase waste (nobody's dying of thirst or unwashed, they just do what they need to do using a lot less water).

USDM/Screen capture

California is going through a historic drought that some experts say "could last a decade or more". What if the state had gotten into extreme water conservation habits, especially in its agricultural sector, which uses more water than anything else, back when water was plentiful? Do we really have to wait until the situation is dire before we scramble to try to change things (sometimes too late?).

Sometimes what matters most is the mindset. Conserving water, even when it is plentiful, probably makes you a lot more likely to also be efficient with electricity, gasoline, and other resources.

Where I live in Canada, fresh water is so plentiful that residential buildings don't even have water meters. You pay a fixed amount each month for water regardless of whether you using 10x more than average or 0.1x as much as your neighbors. This is absolutely bonkers, not because I think we'll run out of water, but because it encourages a wasteful mindset -- it punishes those who save by making them pay for those who waste (building and operating water treatment plants and sewer systems still costs a lot of money).

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I want to know what you think. Is there such a thing as too much conservation? Are Germans 'overdoing it' when it comes to saving water?

Tags: California | Drought | Germany | Water Conservation | Water Crisis


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