All Dried Up: Averting the Day Zero Water Crisis Through Tax Reform

Author(s)

Garrett Gaughan

Details

Faculty editor: Roy Brooks
Publication: Law Review
Volume: 57
Issue: 1
Start Page: 223
Month: March
Year: 2020
Type: Comment
Instititional Repository (IR) location of full article: https://digital.sandiego.edu/sdlr/vol57/iss1/

Abstract

Demand-side solutions seek to control consumption by increasing the price of the resource. This type of solution is distinct from previous methods of water sustainability because it targets individuals’ perceptions regarding the true cost of water. Over time, this will permanently change our attitudes toward how we use water, thus achieving long-term sustainability. The problem with the demand-side method as applied to water is that the marketplace, which acts as the enforcement mechanism, does not take into account “good” and “bad” uses of water or the fact that individuals with few economic resources still require water to survive and earn a livelihood. Thus, a progressive-based consumption tax model is necessary to adequately account for the negative externalities of a demand-side solution, which the marketplace does not. To be successful, such a model must account for (1) what the policy goals should be; (2) why other water policies have failed; (3) what is included in the price of water; and (4) what has driven the success of similar tax-based solutions in other areas. Accordingly, Part II of this Comment will define good water policy. This Part will argue that any successful water policy must be built around four pillars of water sustainability: consumption, efficiency, equity, and longevity. Part III will examine how the current methods of controlling water crises measure up to the definition of good water policy in Part II, and why they will ultimately fail as long-term solutions. Part IV will explain how the current perception of water as an essentially-free resource creates problems for water management and how a water tax could serve as a solution. Part V will look at the effectiveness of carbon taxes at curbing fossil fuel usage around the world as a model for a potential water tax. Finally, Part VI proposes a generic model for what a potential progressive-based consumption tax would look like and how it would work.