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Jevon's Paradox - we should all learn this one

State agencies (and most of us, really) assume that if we increase efficiency in irrigation, it will help conserve Florida's limited water. That efficiency in the use of a resource will lower the consumption of that resource. That line of thinking will get us into (further) trouble. The Jevons Paradox explains why.

The Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, a member organizations of FSC recently sent a letter, along with a recent article from Science magazine outlining the failure of water efficiency measures in water conservation, to Florida DEP's Noah Valenstein. In that letter FSI urges DEP to take this economic principle into account in Florida's water management.

"In the article, which appeared in the 24 August issue of Science, authors R.Q. Grafton et al. provide strong and convincing evidence to support the validity of Jevons’ Paradox – namely, that greater efficiency in the use of a resource paradoxically increases its overall use, instead of advancing conservation. This paradox has arisen time and again in water management scenarios. It’s not that irrigation efficiency isn’t necessary for water conservation, but that its pursuit in the absence of mechanisms capable of simultaneously constraining overall consumption will lead inevitably to the depletion of the resource. The H.T. Odum Florida Springs Institute has been raising awareness for years about the potential disaster posed by the Jevons effect and the dangers in pushing irrigation efficiency in isolation of parallel controls. It is our considered opinion that the most effective way to control overall consumption is to establish a definitive cap on groundwater withdrawals and the imposition of universal, tiered water fees."

Read Dr. Robert Knight's entire letter from the Florida Springs Institute to DEP's Noah Valenstein HERE

Read the Science article "The paradox of irrigation efficiency" HERE

Read FSI advisory panel member Robert Ulanowicz's op-ed in the Gainesville Sun that sums up the idea nicely HERE