Michael Webber

ATI Clean Energy Co-director Webber in NYT

Water-cartoonATI’s Clean Energy Incubator Co-director, Dr. Michael Webber, writes today in the New York Times about strategies to combat the nation’s water crisis:

“To fix our water systems, we need prices that lead to more rational water use and invite needed investment, data to track water resources and usage, and much more research and development.

“Take prices, for example. Water prices should rise or fall according to supply and demand. The idea that the price should be the same in the dry season (when supplies are low and demand for irrigation is high) as the wet season (when supplies are high and demand is low) is nonsense.

“Water utilities should take a page out of the energy sector’s playbook. Electric utilities had been plagued for decades by many of the same difficulties. But now they are moving toward time-of-use pricing, with prices rising when demand is up, and inverted block pricing, where prices increase with consumption. Allowing these price shifts would change user behavior. Higher prices would encourage conservation and new technologies.

“Regulations can ensure that the first few gallons per person per day are cheap or free, with escalating costs beyond that. Water for necessities such as drinking, cooking and hygiene should be affordable. Beyond that, water for lawns, filling swimming pools, washing cars and other uses should be more expensive.”

To read the full editorial, click here.

In conjunction with the White House Water Summit, Webber, associate professor of mechanical engineering at UT Austin, has made a commitment to partner with Itron to create and distribute an interactive curriculum that teaches key concepts about water and energy for K-12 students, colleges, industry and the general public. This curriculum will combine traditional content with multimedia components. Itron will make the app-based curriculum available free of charge, with a goal of reaching at least 10,000 students in 2016 and expanding globally in 2017.