Thursday, February 16, 2012

Water to Waste

Water, water, everywhere, but none to drink. Hosing down the sidewalk in front of Jorge Tadeo University. 
Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro has fullfilled one of his campaign promises - unfortunately. The city will give free and subsidized water to poorer families. The intention is good, but there are much better and more sustainable ways to help such families, such as instead helping them to replace leaking pipes, install water-saving toilets and showerheads and teaching them to use water more efficiently.

The photo above shows what happens when people don't have to pay for the resources they use. An employee is cleaning the sidewalk in front of the private Jorge Tadeo University by washing it down with a hose. He could clean the sidewalk with a broom and perhaps a few buckets of water. But he doesn't pay for the water, so who cares about wasting it?

Colombia has lots of water - but every liter supplied to Bogotá is pumped, filtered, treated and piped a long way. Wasting it means wasting resources and money which otherwise could be put to better use - not to mention stealing from the fishes and dolphins.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Esben said...

It's so true. And it's generally true for most people who don't have much, to use what they have in very inefficient ways.

Education is of course alpha-omega. But do you know of any public or private/NGO initiatives to hold seminars or something on e.g. private economy and ressourcemanagement. It would really help everyone!

Miguel said...

Hi Esben,

Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, I don't know of anybody doing work on resource management, altho I am sure they exist. But I believe that, while education is important, personal interest is what matters most. If people have to pay for something, they use it carefully.

A good example is Venezuela, where gasoline is almost free and per-capita consumption is much higher than in Colombia.

Esben said...

Hi Mike,

Thats definitely true, and while higher prices (or simply, real prices) would go anlong way in pushing consumption patterns indirectly, I still think everyone would gain by getting to know the economic advantages of smart living as soon as possible. And it's a lot easier to get going with, than trying to get the government to do something about it.

That's why I believe a volunteer organization could be meaningful, because it could start change by showing some good tips.

Something like personal budgetting, just a small effort can go a long way.

by the way, would you recommend a visit to Bogotá in Semana Santa?

Best, Esben

Miguel said...

I agree that education CAN help. But I believe that concrete, immediate, self-interest is what really matters. Take smoking, which just about everybody knows can kill you eventually. But many people keep on smoking, despite that knowledge. But anti-tobacco campaigners say that the most effective way to discourage smoking is raising the price of a pack. Or, the use of unnecessary plastic bags: it's pretty obvious that all they accomplish is to trash up the city. But people still use them compulsively. But places which have applied even small taxes to plastic bags have seen use drop dramatically.