our water use has not gone up in 20 years. If we paid prices for water that reflected the true cost of its use, and if farmers could transfer their property rights over water to non-agricultural users, think how much less water we could be using than we did 20 years ago.
In the fixed-coefficients model of environmentalists, water use per person would remain constant, and we would run out of fresh water. Instead, even with poor institutional arrangements for conserving water, our economy has evolved in the direction of lower water use per capita.
For Discussion. The U.S. geological survey credits “advances in technology in irrigation and power generation” with enabling us to conserve water. Which technologies have been most important?