Yes, we should use less water and pay more for it

I watched this video the other day. It’s something. Though I commend Mike Patton for his interest in and dedication to civic issues, his argument is a bit off the mark.

To recap, Patton accurately addresses and describes the situation. The city needed people to start using less water, so they implored them to do so. The public, thankfully, listened. Yay! Everything’s great…except that the city was totally relying on the water revenues and suddenly we’re kind of stuck.

Now we need to raise rates, and, thus, pay more for the reduced amount of water we use. The city, obviously, totally bungled this, but Patton’s solution is no better.

Patton wants the city to roll up the cost of water with your tax bill. You won’t pay for the water you use, just a flat fee. Have a pool in the suburbs? Have a small loft? We’ll all just pay the same. [Insert joke about conservatives wanting people to pay their own way.]

No, the current situation is right. People should use less water than they have in the past and people should pay more for it, if that’s what it costs. (This is a pretty straightforward market solution…insert joke about conservatives liking market solutions.)

The only problem here is that we didn’t raise rates sooner. First, that’s a great way to get people to reduce consumption. Second, we should have known that we’d still have to pay for water-related services and infrastructure even if people were using less.

Now, Patton has a point that the cost of delivering water is fixed, regardless of how much we use, but it’s not consistent across the city. It costs far less to deliver water to that loft downtown than to the single-family home in the ‘burbs.

If we’re going to just charge everyone a flat rate, we should make sure they’re paying for the infrastructure they use, rather than continuing to subsidize fiscally-irresponsible development.

(Keep in mind, a year or two ago, we decided to slash development charges so that new subdivisions don’t actually have to pay the cost of the infrastructure that has to be built.)

Of course, then there’s no incentive to reduce consumption, and that seems to be the point of the video. We should, apparently, be allowed to use as much water as we want, consequences be damned.

So, if we want to be fair, what we probably need are different rates for different areas to reflect the cost of service, and we need to charge proper rates that will bring in sufficient revenue to pay for water delivery.

This may be complicated in practice, but it’s not a difficult concept.


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