Just briefly… I once asked “Does anyone actually want a spot market for water?” – meaning, if we allowed instant trading of water rights on some sort of exchange from the imagination of Paolo Bacigalupi, would anyone (especially, any city) actually use it? They rely on predictability and reliability of delivery of their water to the point of use.
Well, I now serve on the Durango Utilities Commission (thank you, thank you), the city’s advisory board for all things water and wastewater, and I’m learning a lot about the operations of an actual municipal water system. The point that I’m going to make here is that not only does a spot market for water not meet the city’s infrastructure needs, they’re not staffed and trained to operate one. Not to rag on my home city, by the way- I’m sure this goes for all but the very largest utilities (and, knowing what I know about Denver Water, it probably goes for the largest too).
Here’s the point: Durango Utilities services about 20,000 people:
They have a staff of 40. Their personnel roster includes 2 civil engineers, 18 facility operators and supervisors, a handful of assistants and technicians, 1 water resource manager and 2 systems analysts (what they analyze is still unclear to me). This includes both the water and wastewater divisions of the department (Source: See pages 206 through 239 of the city budget: http://www.durangogov.org/DocumentCenter/View/3394). As I see it, Durango has at best 1 person, the water resources manager, who might work on managing their place in a water marketplace and 39 people who are suited to turning the same reliable water into the same high-quality treated water every day and turning raw sewage into high-quality effluent in the same location every day.
Organizations change with the times and with the laws, but converting every single municipal utility in the West from an engineering firm-slash-factory into a hedge fund would be an onerous undertaking to say the least.
Hopefully unnecessary disclaimer: The opinions in this blog post are those solely of the author and do not necessarily represent the point of view of the Durango Utilities Commission, the Utilities Department, or the City.