A few days ago I received my water bill. Although we – we are only two humans in the house – haven’t consumed as much water this year (3 CCF) compared to last (7), I was still amazed to see that the two of us still consumed over 2,200 gallons of water in the past two months (over 8,300 litres, enough to fill 22 bath tubs).

Don’t get me wrong, this is not an article about “saving the planet at any cost.” Although I find our water usage a little high, I’m still grateful we have an easy access to abundant, relatively good water (we get it treated because normal tap water is too chlorinated). I believe I make a reasonable use of it, taking a short shower daily and using the washing machine when it’s (almost) overflowing.

However, such high consumption is not surprising considering the ridiculously low price of water in Idaho. These 3 CCF of water cost less than FIVE dollars ($4.76); the customer’s franchise fee is the most expensive part of the bill, about 4 times that amount. I checked past bills, and when we consumed more than 3 CCF, it was billed a mere $0.40 more each.

Did I also mention that I live in Idaho, i.e. a semi-arid climate? In Boise, temperatures can stay over 35 Celsius during the day in July and we can also be a full month without any precipitation. Needless to say that this creates an enormous pressure on the waterways that are already in high demand. Indeed the Treasure Valley (and other parts of the state I’m sure) are “veined up” with several canals which people use to water abundantly their grass or crops (and it’s not included in the water bill). So much, in fact, that the grass was greener here than in Redmond, Washington, where I spent three weeks and where locals say it was unusually dry.

So imagine in Idaho! Water here is way, way underpriced. According to a French woman who moved to the US in the early 1980s, her water bill – I HOPE it was annual – was over $2,000. It’s most probably public there too, but at least public authorities seem to recognize that water, like any other commodity, has a supply, a demand and a price. Is it overpriced? I don’t know. But one thing is for sure: French men and women are unlikely to water their driveway, their cars or their plants daily. And if they do, they simply know they will have to pay extra rather than being ridiculed by some equally ridiculous government regulation rationing water.