Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Water Debate?

Should water management be privatized?

Mention an effective argument you heard from the debate or respond to one of those posted by a classmate.


The event:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 : 7:00pm; Wednesday, October 29, 2008 : 7:00pm

University Park Campus
Bovard Auditorium

Leaders in the field face off over dwindling water supply, an issue particularly relevant in California.

We continue our Social Issues Speaker series with a debate addressing the limited water supply.

Stephen P. Erie, professor of Political Science and director of Urban Studies at UC San Diego, will debate Michael George, executive VP of the American States Water Company in San Dimas, California. Moderating the event is Donal Manahan, professor of Biology and Director of the Wrigley Institute at USC.

19 comments:

Lea Williams said...

Both presenters agreed that water is a scarce resource and something needs to be done. One side seemed to argue that we needed to create more of the resource (such as desalination) and the other leaned more towards general alternative energy and environmental conservation. I personally agree more with the need to find ways to make more water drinkable. Even if we manage to radically change habits and business practices, there is only a finite amount of water available on a planet with an exponentially growing population. Thus the available water supply needs to be increased. Many argue that desalinization needs to much energy but i think it is more likely that we will be able to harness various types of energy to make desalination less costly then getting people and large cities and corporations to change their habits

Aaron Cheney said...

I am not exactly sure which sector should control the water industry.

I feel like the private sector would utilize the market system to effectively price water, although the current economic crisis makes me wary of doing this. Would we have a repeat of Wall Street where the private sectors of the water industry screw up to the point where they need to be bailed out by the government? Or would they be able to remain objective and manage water as it is best for the population.

If the government were to take over the water industry, then the operation would be in full view of the people and they would be held accountable. But the government is not without its flaws. Perhaps, if the government did take over the water area, there could be a management that is subject to the vote of the people. In doing this, the government would supply the means of distributing water while the people would retain the power in how they have their utilities controlled.

Both options have possible up-sides, but they also have drawbacks -- all centered around human flaws. The system where the people control the way the industry seems ideal; but in an instance where a simple majority would decide how the industry would be run, there would be a discrepancy that could make confrontation a larger problem than the one it was designed to solve.

Lauryn Togioka said...

I agree with Lea that desalinization is an ideal way to increase the fresh water supply that is available for usage. Nevertheless, I also believe that every measure is taken towards water conservation. There is only a fixed amount of water on our planet and most of the freshwater is frozen in icebergs. Therefore, people need to be aware that there is only a small supply of freshwater available. The process of desalinization would help to utilize the non-drinkable salt water and drastically increase the freshwater supply. However, the mass amounts of energy would be needed to facilitate this process. Since there is a decreasing amount of fossil fuels and a impending energy crisis this could be a concern. One way to surpass this problem is using a alternate energy source such as hydroelectricity to run the desalinization process.

The ideal solution to the water problems is to make an effort to conserve water as well as produce more. In respect to regulation of these conditions the public should have control. With the government making the policies a water conservation initiative can be implemented in all states. Likewise, all states would have access to desalinization plants. The source of water is precious to the survival of humans. Therefore, it is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

Barron said...

Water management should be privatized. As in all economic situations, the government's monopoly on the water insures that they have a working system, yet they have no need to search for improvements. If the money going towards that area of the government was offered to a private company, that company would make the process more efficient to maximize profit. Although the start-up costs would be ridiculous, private companies should manage our water. This does not mean, however, that it should not be a regulated process. Any resource as important as water should be watched over by the government in some way, just not completely.

Brian said...

I believe all of the previous posts have solid points. I too believe in an at least more privatized water supply. This would create a more realistic price of water, and thus also help with the gross over-consumption of this precious resource. Desalination would increase water supply, but at current production, the energy costs are too great to make this an end-all solution when it comes to the impending water crisis. Massive increases in the use and production of alternative energies need to be utilized in society before it can be looked at as an efficient excuse to use desalination, considering over 80% of our energy even here in Green California still comes from fossil fuels. This is all coming from my enst-100 class/professors, where we recently covered the issue of water and its management. At this point, we can do a lot more than we are to conserve the resources we already have.

Coming from Minnesota, land of ten thousand lakes, I am appalled at the gross consumption of water in Los Angeles, particularly as there is very little natural water around. It has rained once since I've been here. In my home town, in the summers, our water supply is run very short because people are watering their lawns every day etc.etc. yet I've seen this activity happening literally everyday that I've been living at USC. All of these manicured lawns and flowers seem to be watered every night, and that water isn't coming from anywhere close to here. The distance between source and use means that a tremendous amount of energy has to go into the transportation of such a gargantuan amount of water. Most of our water here in Los Angeles comes from several hundred if not a thousand or more miles from here. I think that large strides can be made for recapture, reuse, and general conservation that would have a much greater impact on the availability and sustainability of the essential resource.

Brian said...

In order to take massive measures, massive movements must be made, and that means that governmental (federal or state-level) policy needs to be at least prevalent, or better yet, acting as the catalyst for the change. This could easily coincide with privatization of local water utilities and managers that were fluent in the language of the new policies.

matt mccormick said...

I agree with Lauryn and Lea in that utilizing desalinization towards increasing the actual amount of drinkable water should be our main goal. While the privatization of the water industry may lead to increased taxes to cover high start up costs and fund the harnessing of energy to produce more water, I believe that it will prove beneficial to the industry and to the people in the long run. Privatization provides more organization and results in a more efficient system of implementing policy, rather than many smaller public companies with different, potentially even conflicting policies. Additionally, privatization provides the public with someone to blame should something go wrong. Although, putting the industry under government control centralizes power in a potentially dangerous way because if the privatized system were to crash, the entire industry would fall apart.

Kristine Cato said...

Although I do agree that it is important that we should conserve resources, I think in this case it would be in our better interests to use ways to create more useable water. Water is resource that human thrive on and even though the costs and energies to create more useable water are high, it is definitely something we need to do. Desalination would be a great way to create useable water. Although it would require a lot of money and energy, it would be a process worth using because society relies so heavily on this resource. We need to find ways to create more water, it's a resource that we use so prevalently that conservation would be a difficult option.

spaswimmer15 said...

After watching the debate I didn't really get the feeling they were actually arguing whether or not water should be privatized. It seemed like the man who wanted water to be privatized wanted the public to make the water policy, and then wanted the private sector to take control because they can run things more efficiently and make things cheaper for the consumer. One argument I did like against the politicians policy was how, through the government, that farmers have almost unlimited water at a very cheap price, which results in a lot of food being grown here and exported. -- T.J. Auner

Nicole said...

I agree that water management should be privatized for essentially the same reason as Barron. Private companies, in their efforts to make a profit and remain competitive in the industry, will have more motivation to develop new technology for innovations such as the process created by Energy Savers that gets back 40% of the energy used in desalinization to reuse. Both debaters seemed to have the most issue with certain wasteful government subsidies, such as agricultural ones that make it affordable for farmers to grow rice, which requires a huge amount of water, in California to ship to Japan, and I agree that this is the biggest fault with water policy today. Michael George’s argument that the public sector should set the rules but the private sector should implement them sounded very strong and logical because the public would not be left out completely and their voices would still be heard, but the private industries will be able to focus on management more efficiently as they seek to make a profit and because the government already has enough issues to deal with and may not be able to give water problems the attention they require.

bryanberens said...

I agree with Lea: while changing consumption habits and water distribution practices may be the most practical solution in the short run, efforts must be made to make desalinization more practical and useful for the future. No matter how drastic a change in consumption habits, eventually earth's finite supply of fresh water will dwindle, even without factoring in population growth. Rather than wait for that crisis to present itself, I think that the government should transfer the money from the wasteful subsidies mentioned by both debaters to desalinization research. While this is happening, grassroots efforts should be started to reduce the amount of consumption. (For instance: I live in Scottsdale, the middle of the Sonoran Desert, and yet everywhere I go there's a new golf course, and with it the ridiculous amount of water used. Scottsdale has among the lowest annual precipitation levels, yet the highest rate of golf courses per person. I see a problem here.)

daniel said...

The major issue of the water debate i felt was the security and availability of water in the future. Both Erie and George accept that water is a scarce necessity that was have to conserve. Their main divides in the debate whether water should be managed through private or public means. Erie supports public management to have consistent regulation. Meanwhile George advocates privatization, to keep inline with prices. Beside their differences their goals are similar in keeping water resources around and secure for the future.

Megan Funkhouser said...

Every time there is a problem in American society, no one takes it upon themselves to change their personal habits. The two presenters exuded this because they both spoke of only long term solutions to the problem rather than making conservation a part of our every day lives along with searching for long term solutions. Just by taking shorter showers, not growing green grass in your lawn, fixing leaks, we can help conserve water while still researching. Even if we develop a save-all solution, we are still an increasing population and no solution will work forever.

On the private versus public sector, the private sector may claim to have great ideas and be able to do it for a cheaper price, but in the end every one is looking to make a profit. Governments are not geared towards making a profit -- which is a good thing, they would fail -- but that means their agencies would be more focused on availability to everyone. Basic needs should never be allowed to fall wary to the exploitation of the private sector. Governments always have incentive to get better, especially in the United States where we can become incredibly cruel to those who do not uphold their promises upon entering office.

connor said...

Water should be partially privatized, with the people's need in focus. As a private industry the companies will have to compete and search for new and better ways to provide water: research desalinization and other methods. However, the price of water will increase until these methods are developed.

Victoria said...

I believe that the water industry should be controlled by the government, as all other industries of necessities should. As many of my classmates mentioned above, government is not profit driven and therefore would serve in people's best interest. Many argue that policy fluctuation would cause inefficiency and discourage research, but I argue that private market is just as vulnerable to fluctuation as politic, if not more. Private control of oil is a very good example. Market instability cause dramatic fluctuation in prices, causing a great economic pain for the consumers. As Eerie has noted, it costs 1.75 million dollar for an acre of Evian water. What we should do to prevent government inefficiency is to set up a congressional commission for oversight. People who are specialized in water management should be employed to carry out the business. Therefore, government control over the water industry is the most healthy solution for the problem.

Robert Thorpe said...

Public control of water management may not be in the best interest of industry itself, due to conflict of ideologies. Private industry would be much more efficient in management. However, on a lager scale it may be beneficial to switch to public control because the population of this nation is growing and our economy is faltering. The public sector could use tax dollars to initiate public works projects in the industry that could create jobs for the larger population and would stimulate the economy much better than subsidies to banks and other current tactics will.

Eric Inamine said...

i believe that water should be privatized in order for the promotion of more efficient methods of obtaining consumable water to be made. if private companies are competing to sell their product, a scarce necessity, to a large number of buyers, they will seek ways to produce pure water in the least costly manner. competition may drive down costs for consumers and create better ways of obtaining water at the same time.

James said...

I am in favor of the privatization of the water industry. I am fascinated by the potentials of the desalination process. If the water industry were to become an open market, then creating the most efficient and effective method of desalination would be one of the golden achievements of the industry. As it stands, the process is far too expensive and uses too much energy to be a viable option. However, if private companies were to research desalination, I believe that we could discover a way in which to make it useful. This would effectively solve the water shortage issue. It may be just a pipe dream, but it is an attractive one.

Joe Kennedy said...

Coming from Las Vegas, the concepts of water scarcity and wasteful management of this precious resource have been drilled into my mind since middle school. The solution to the water issue should come from a heightened focus on properly managing the current resources rather than attempting to produce larger quantities of the resource through processes such as desalinization. In Las Vegas the incorporation of "water-free" lawns and landscaping have made a huge impact in the ultimate quest for lessening the overall use of water, however this is of course contrasted with the dancing fountains and lush tropical landscapes of the Strip. Similar measures could be successfully implemented within Los Angeles, however business enterprises that partially depend on the somewhat wasteful use of water such as Disneyland, Universal Studios, the San Diego Zoo, and the film studios that form the basis of the Los Angeles economy will continue to require vast amounts of water resources, suggesting that a shift in the management of water supply may be more pertinent than attempting to alter the existing system of water consumption. Changing water supply from the public sector to the private one may encourage the development of a competitive industry that could reduce prices and effectively manage the allocation of water. Large businesses and individual consumers are both likely to benefit. Systems such as this one have already been implemented throughout the world with much success and it is likely that they could benefit the Los Angeles area in the same way.