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Restore to what?

I’m in rainy Seattle to give a speech on the Green Tea Party at an environmental conference. Ads for the hotel boast that it has double shower heads, which had me pondering the following:

We pass laws forcing people to install restricted flow shower heads. The hotel responds by installing a double shower head and posts a sign saying “restore our world” by turning off one of the heads to save water, our “precious resource.” We use time and money — precious resources — to pass the laws; we use capital — a precious resource — to install double shower heads that deliver more water; and we print signs — using precious resources — to restore our world without asking the obvious question: Restore to what? And all of this is to save water which falls from the heavens, runs into lakes and streams, is diverted into pipes delivering water to the shower heads, cleans our bodies, runs down the drain, and returns to the watershed. To be sure, the shower heads, the water purification systems, the delivery systems, and so on use precious resource which might be saved, but how can we save water?

See the Green Tea Party pocket guide [pdf] for some market-based solutions to water allocation.