Sunday, January 6, 2008


I was arguing with a friend about this just the other day. The argument concerned the cost of water and in particular, recycled water.

A 25,000 litre truck can be filled with recycled water for about $25. If I wanted that water to be delivered to my house, it’ll cost me in excess of $2000. I know this because I watched a short article not long ago about a water carter and it seems to be true enough with my enquiry to fill a 1000lt tank resulting in a cost estimate of about $100. When they asked him why he charged so much for the water, he said “People pay it if they want the water” which translates to “because I can”. At that point I wanted to take a gun and shoot the fool.

I mentioned this to my mate and he said “So what’s wrong with that?” I tried to point out that it offers a disincentive to which he said “Bullshit!”. I damn near fell off my bike, but you can’t argue with that kind of logic, so I didn’t.

The markup here is about 8000%. That, in anyone’s language (except my mate’s) is profiteering on a grandiose scale, and he can do it because there are no laws to prevent it. The thing that really irked me about this bloke was that he was quite happy to charge up to $3000 for 25,000 litres of recycled water to fill a pool, but was prepared to drop it to $2500 if you are trying to grow food or own a business that needs it and don’t have a tap yet. Big hearted of him I thought.

Not long after, my brother in law was around for a barby and told the story of his mate. This bloke had recently had an 85,000 litre pool installed. Of course, he didn’t have the $8000 needed to do the right thing and fill it with recycled water, so he rang the water company and told them an engineer had just told him he had to fill the pool or it would collapse, but he couldn’t afford the recycled water. So without so much as a “can we see the engineer’s report please”, they told him to turn the tap on. $80 later he had an 85,000 litre pool full of beautiful, clear, sparkling, pristine drinking water.

Now in a state that’s having serious water issues, with stage 3a water restrictions in force, which means we not allowed to fill pools, no matter the size, we can’t water lawns or gardens at all, trees can only have a bucket twice a week, etc, I think that deceiving the water company like that is probably a bit rude, so shame on him. But double shame on the carter for making it prohibitively expensive NOT to deceive the water company.

But once again, this is the problem and the result of our “profit at all costs!” society. Profits soar as prices rise and the economy booms and we have good times. Then slowly it creeps up, because in the final analysis, one man’s gain is another man’s loss, and then it hits and a wave of home buyers go bust. Usually it’s because they’ve over extended themselves, but where was the check to make sure they didn’t, or the check to stop the unscrupulous mortgage broker? Well they’ve been removed because they interfere with profit.

We seem to talk a lot about silly people buying things they can’t afford and somehow manage to almost completely avoid talking about the smart people who convinced them to do it and these days, that's business. It no longer has anything to do with the usefulness or value of a product, but everything to do with whether you and I can be convinced to buy it. Why we do that I don’t know. It seems all ass about to me but then I’m not profit driven, except where my employer is concerned and that’s only because I’ve seen the workplace change so drastically over the years. There was a time I was treated like a person, now I’m treated like a commodity so I’ll do my best to act like one.


Dikkii said...

I support this kind of profiteering. The Packers are well known for getting a water truck backed in a couple of times a week because a loophole allows them to use the water to keep their gardens watered.

Yes, it is a disincentive. But normally, free market economics being what it is, when one offers what is essentially a homogeneous product, it isn't long before the hordes hone in on what is an extremely profitable market.

This then increases supply which reduces the price. Where there are very few barriers to entry, this happens awfully quickly.

Eventually, the price will match cost.

Personally, I wonder why we don't use this as an excuse to get rid of the introduced plants in our gardens and plant some natives, but that's just me.

Plonka said...

Well good luck to the Packer's if they're using recycled water. I have no problem with that. We're not allowed to drink it so gardens and swimming pools is all the likes of you and I (and the Packer's) can use it for at home.

This then increases supply which reduces the price.

Supply can only increase if we put more water down the toilet and recycled water, if bought from one of the water companies, is still very cheap at about $1 per 1000 litres.

Now, if I was buying my new house in the estate across the road from my current address, my new house will have recycled water piped directly to my outside taps, my laudry and my toilets and that water will cost me the same as my normal water supply.

But if I live where I do and am refused access to the recycled water conduit running past my back fence, I have to pay a carter a more than a week's wage, just for 1000 litres. How is that good?

Personally, I wonder why we don't use this as an excuse to get rid of the introduced plants in our gardens and plant some natives, but that's just me.

Well I'm thinking of using it as an excuse to let my veggie patch die, but then I'd have to eat more of the unripened and flavourless crap they sell at the supermarket because now, veggies are cheaper than the water required to grow them, but only if I want to do the right thing.

Stealing the drinking water, on the other hand, is cheap, easy and risk free if you do it right, and it makes my veggie patch viable again.

How anyone can possibly see this as a good thing is beyond me.

breakerslion said...

"But if I live where I do and am refused access to the recycled water conduit running past my back fence ..."

Something seems very wrong with this picture. What are the laws in your community concerning slant drilling? ;-)

Hi from New Hampshire USA. The first year I lived in this house (1989)I was presented with a $300 water bill for watering my lawn one month. I sunk a well. I realize that might not be an option for you. I was trying to find a link to a radio broadcast I heard concerning a guy in Arizona who turns his annual 12 inches of rain into a hoarded water supply, but I can't find it. I wish you luck, and I leave you with this old tune. I'm sure your cities have their share of poorly maintained apartments too.

The Faucets Are Dripping

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1959 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1987.

The faucets are dripping in old New York City,
The faucets are dripping and oh, what a pity,
The reservoir's drying because it's supplying
The faucets that drip in New York.

You can't ask the landlord to put in a washer,
He'd rather you move than to put in a washer,
The faucets are dripping, they sound in my ears,
The tap in the bathroom's been running for years.


There's a wild streak of green in the sink in the kitchen,
It comes from the rill trickling out of the plumbing,
The streams from the mountains, the pools from the lea,
All run from my faucet and down to the sea.


You can't ask the landlord to put in a washer,
You can't ask the landlord to mend the old stairs,
He takes in the rents and he lives in Miami,
Where faucets don't drip and there's sun everywheres.


The faucets are dripping, the landlord's content.
With every new tenant he raises the rent,
The buildings can crumble, the tenants can cry,
There's a shortage of housing, you'll live there or die.


They're building some buildings and fine city centers,
It's sure working hard on the low-income renters,
They're jammed into rooms with the rat and the fly
Where the faucets all drip and the floor's never dry.


Plonka said...


Something seems very wrong with this picture.

Yep. But then this is Autsralia where "wrong" and somtimes even "really weird and strange" are often translated as "perfectly normal".

What are the laws in your community concerning slant drilling? ;-)

Don't worry, it's been considered...;)

Thanks for the song, it's a gem. Dripping faucets almost constitue a crime over here these days.

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