“If the assumption of all economists, government officials and investors is that the population must increase exponentially, what does that suggest for our future?” was a question asked a few days back. Did you ponder this at all? I suggest we should and here is why. An exponential growth rate assumes a certain percent increase every year. That means the increase in population is greater the farther out you go. That doesn’t really make sense except perhaps at one point in Las Vegas (but not anymore). The economy cannot really expand at a rate greater than the expansion of the population because there is no one to buy the goods or increase the demand, which is why increasing the US population is going to be viewed favorably by all politicians regardless what they say today. House values do not increase faster than population increase unless they are in a bubble, nor does the stock market really (inflation adjusted). Your water sales will not increase faster than your system’s population increase for any extended period of time either, so an assumption of ever increasing water sales is likely to be an overestimation sooner as opposed to later. And then what – you have to raise rates, and keep raising rates to keep up because your demands are too low?
And what if your growth stagnates, or goes backwards as many did in 2009/2010? That was a severe problem for most entities, causing layoffs and higher prices, pay cuts and deferral of needed improvements, mostly because no one had reserves because people thought the good times would roll on forever. Layoffs, price hikes, pay cuts and deferral of needed improvements do help society (of course if you had lots of reserves, you weathered the recession without a problem, but too many did not). Keep in mind the repair, replacement, and maintenance needs, along with ongoing deterioration, do not diminish with time or lack of new customers. We have relied on new people to add money to solve old as well as new problems for many years. What is the contingency if growth stops?
So a growth scenario makes us feel better and more confident when we borrow funds. But if growth does not stop, where is the water to come from? What are the resources that will be used faster? Where does the power come from to treat the water or cool the houses? And the cooling water to cool those power plants? Even renewable resources are limited – most metals and oil have likely passed their peaks as far as production and water does not always fall consistently. We have overstressed aquifers and over allocated surface waters, especially in the west. So while growth makes us feel good financially, we need answers to the growth scenario despite the fact that we may have more funding. Many resources are not limitless, but an exponential growth pattern ignores this. Locally growth maybe less of an issue, but society wise? Maybe a societal problem, or maybe we get into extreme completion with each other. Some how that doesn’t look like a solution either