• Description

As Georgia increasingly faces the strains imposed by water scarcity, there is growing interest in water conservation programs as a means for dealing with the scarcity problem. There are many types of residential water use conservation programs found in communities across the United States. An important question then becomes: is there one, or possible one set, of conservation policies that apply to all conditions of water scarcity faced by communities with water scarcity problems -- i.e., does a "one size fits all" approach to the design of conservation programs make good sense? In an effort to address this question, we conduct case studies of two cities that face very different water scarcity conditions: Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Phoenix, Arizona. In Albuquerque, where alternative sources of water are very expensive, we find a wide range of incentive-based conservation programs as well as aggressive public outreach and education programs. In Phoenix, where alternative water supplies are relatively inexpensive, incentive-based programs have been rejected; the City relies solely on public outreach and education programs. Examination of the manner in which these two cities have designed their residential water conservation programs provides a clear manifestation of the importance of a government giving close consideration to the benefits and costs associated with any particular conservation program design -- the importance of considering the extent to which the expenditure of "cents" makes good public policy "sense." Such an approach is highly recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a basic tool that has been used in U.S. cities whose conservation programs are widely recognized as being exceptionally effective. These observations then raise questions as to the efficacy of state-wide policies requiring, for example, restrictions on outdoor water use in all communities in a state. Our study suggests that Georgia's citizens may well be better served by the adoption of policies designed to "fit" the particular circumstances of water scarcity that is faced by communities affected by the policy. Working Paper Number 2005-005