The non-wisdom of shorter showers

Taking shorter showers and fixing dripping taps saves water and cuts bills. This is a fact. So far so good, then. However, the admonition “please use water wisely” contains the assumption that there is no cost to taking shorter showers. In other words that there is no value in showers other than the utility of being clean, and therefore the only cost to consider when using water is monetary. This is false for one reason: the fact that people enjoy taking showers. Long ones, short ones, hot ones – heck – even cold ones. Showers are assigned the value of enjoyment as well as the value of utility by people because showers soothe aching muscles, relax tired minds and just feel nice. I think it’s reasonable to say that no one assigns value to a dripping tap. A dripping tap is simply a device operating at a sub-optimal level. Not fixing one is economically unwise in the long-run, but may be of value in the short-term if you have a more pressing monetary concern (e.g. late rent).

Thames Water has entirely failed to consider or is ignoring the fact that people might value the enjoyment of long showers more than the utility of a few extra quid in their pockets at the end of each month. Which, when you think about it, is quite perverse for a company that makes more money when its customers use more of the product it supplies to them. It’s like going to a restaurant and being asked not to eat ‘too much’ food. If the restaurant was managing its resources efficaciously it would be able to feed you as much you desired to eat.

Besides all this, it is rank hypocrisy for Thames Water to ask its customers to use water ‘wisely’ when they are part of a cosy government created and maintained so-called ‘natural monopoly’ firmly encased around the provision of water. This monopoly has restricted competition, innovation and change, which means water is not being managed as efficiently as it could be and the cost of its provision has not been driven down as far as it could have been. All this is great for companies like Thames Water of course, who’ll do or say whatever it takes to protect their privileged position, but not wise at all in terms of water management; and therefore it is to the overall detriment of society.

So, thanks for the advice Thames Water, but I’ll be continuing to have (and pay for) nice, long showers.

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