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Would Raising Water Rates Make People Use Less In A Drought?

SANTA CLARA (KPIX 5) -- A group of researchers, that include some Stanford professors, have a theory that seems to be a no-brainer when it comes to making people use less water: increase the price.

"I think though there's nothing like a drought, to point out the obvious," said Stanford researcher Buzz Thompson. "The best way of encouraging people to conserve is to charge those people who are using the most water, higher prices for those last units," he said.

Thompson is talking about a tiered pricing system -- the most you use, the more it costs.

This is not the same as raising the price on normal household use. But if you use a lot of water, then that just might push you into a higher tier, which means your water bill would drastically increase.

It could make homeowners think twice about installing a pool, or even watering the grass.

What's more, researchers say higher prices would spur innovation in technologies like graphene -- a new type of membrane that promises to make desalination more affordable.

VIDEO: Graphene's Potential To Provide Drinking Water

"But without adequate prices for water you see a dampening of technological investment," Thompson said.

Governor Jerry Brown says there is no magic bullet for the drought, and water pricing is only part of the solution.

"There's a role for the state, but there's a much bigger role for localities," Brown said. "So, these decisions on how to price water will be made in a variety of locations."

MORE: Complete Drought Coverage

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