You are likely familiar with the fast-food marketing concept of supersizing your drink, your burger, your fries,…your waistline…that the supply-and-demand model of economics has brought us. After all, doesn’t it make sense that you would pay less per ounce for a larger drink than you would for a smaller drink?

In many cases, you may be able to argue that there is less packaging therefore it costs less to produce and as a result it is only fair to pass these savings on to the consumer. Never mind the fact that people are ingesting more than they need and that it is simply making corporations nice and fat as well.

What this economic principle has done is conditioned us into thinking that we deserve a price break by buying volume.

What about water?

“Well, the same applies of course,” you declare. “I expect to pay less for the bigger bottles because it’s the packaging that really costs.”

OK, fair enough. But what about water from your tap? Would you expect to pay less per litre or gallon if you used more?

Now think about this for a bit before you answer. Here come some polka-dots…

  • There is no packaging
  • The costs are independent of the amount that you use
  • The more water you use the more wear and tear on the infrastructure in and out of your home thus increasing costs not reducing them
  • The quicker our aquifers become depleted


In this age of impending world water crisis when would this make sense?

Apparently, it makes complete sense to cities run like bottom-line driven corporations. I have it on good authority that at least one North American municipality has taken this concept and swims with it— Flint Michigan.

Now this story is not about Flint or trying to vilify the city councillors in any way. I am simply going to use their business model as an example of the free market at its worst.

As you may have heard in the news, Detroit has declared bankruptcy and Flint has turned into a ghost town since car manufacturing has high-bumpered it out of there. This kind of mass evacuation is quite common in single-industry towns where the main employer vacates.

A city either adapts and reinvents herself or remains in denial and desperately tries to rekindle the failed relationship, which at that point is clearly one-sided.

Until Flint takes the time to rethink who she really is as a city, that she really is a community of individuals with the capacity to dream and achieve what they strive for rather than a slave to a corporation (a non-feeling entity) she will drift from one sugar-daddy to the next.

Over the past several years, the price of city water has sky-rocketed. The average person struggling to find work cannot afford water. Meanwhile, those who consume more water pay less per gallon than those who would naturally conserve water because they do not have the economic means to be wasteful. What environmentally sustainable habits does this pricing structure reward?


The water situation is so dire in Flint and the neighbouring municipalities that there is talk of running a pipeline from Lake Huron to service the residents. So let’s add one more polka-dot to the list above.

  • Draining the Great Lakes


I sincerely hope that Flint is the exception and that most North American cities either have a flat price per volume system in place rather than give volume discounts on water.

Even better would be a tiered water bracket system where the more water you use, the higher the cost per gallon you pay adjusted of course to the number of people living in the household. A per capita usage pricing scale is much more conducive to the long term health of a community.

What is YOUR city’s pricing model for water?

If the pricing structure were bracketed would you change your water habits?

I believe that cities are in a position to lead their constituents into a sustainable future. Is yours a leader or a laggard?