Statement by IA Advisory Board Member Bob Ulanowicz to the League of Women Voters in Orlando
An inevitable Tragedy of the Commons occurs when a necessary resource becomes available free of cost to a community. Ladies & Gentlemen, this tragedy is unfolding as I speak – right beneath our feet!
Most in this room pay a delivery fee to an urban utility for their water. But the gross majority of water from our aquifer is pumped without cost by agriculture, industry and rural homeowners. Theoretically, withdrawals are regulated by consumptive use permits and minimum flow levels, which in reality are political footballs. Anyone with sufficient resources and power can subvert these controls. Our newspapers are full of examples.
We necessarily struggle to improve the efficiency of water use, but such measures are overwhelmed by increased demands. We are increasingly pumping brackish water in numerous coastal areas, a situation that is practically irreversible. Desalinization is too costly to support agriculture and industry. Absent a new course, Florida is doomed to become a dry-island Caribbean economy! (No exaggeration!)
I submit the only solution to this growing tragedy is to remove regulation from the political arena. Experiments in Florida with tiered water charges have proven to cut consumption astoundingly. Effective control can be restored only by a combination of full-scale monitoring, capping of regional withdrawals and equitable tiered universal charges. It’s almost too late. We require a dramatic, new direction – now!