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Water Water Everywhere


When I was an undergrad at university, I learned about a theory called "The Diamond-Water Paradox". Its pretty simple: it asks "why is water, the one thing we need in the whole universe in order to survive, so cheap or even free; while totally inconsequential objects, like diamonds, so expensive?"

The theory is meant to explain the high cost of rare items, like diamonds. Or the salaries of people with high levels of skill that the average person doesn't have: such as a world-class athletes or neurosurgeons. And until recently, I'd have agreed with it.

Its not that I think there's something nefarious about doctor's salaries or athlete's contracts. Its actually the opposite. We're living in a time when the things that used to be free or cheap are now becoming expensive.

Case and point: organic produce. How is it that an apple that's grown without expensive chemicals would end up costing more on the shelf? You'd think a product with less inputs (e.g. water and sunlight) would cost less to buy because it cost less to make.

And what about water? Does anyone ask themselves how a bottle of water could cost up to three times more than a bottle of soda? Think of the production processes involved:

Soda: chemicals, sugar, colouring, water, preservatives, etc.
Water: dig a hole, profit.

And there's no argument that water is important. Heck, we get it delivered to our house on-demand through a very elaborate system. And for Torontonians, that system is in trouble.

Today, city council announced it is considering a drastic hike in water service fees to try and save our failing system of water mains. The city estimates that it will take over $800 million just to stabilize the systems, which in some sections of the city is over 150 years old.

It is estimated that a 9-12 per cent increase as proposed will impact that average household at about $3.33/month. Think about that the next time you buy a bottle of water. That paradox is down the drain, literally.


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