Raising water rates only way to cut waste


By Bruce Rhodes


March 23, 2003


Our water bill for the 91 days ending Feb. 3 indicates we used 20,000 litres during the billing period, for an average daily consumption of 219.78 litres.


The cost to us for all of this water is $24.88. This works out to just 27 cents per day, an amount, I would respectfully suggest, that is so low as to be insignificant, given the growing scarcity of clean groundwater in the region and, to an event greater extent, elsewhere in the country.


Part of the reason our bill is as low as it is, is due to a conscious effort by all of the members of our family to conserve water.


We take short showers and try to do our laundry and dishes efficiently. We trap rain water in the summer for use in our garden.


A water meter reader told me last summer our water consumption was much lower than the average for our neighbourhood.


While this may speak well for our household, it speaks very poorly for the water usage practices of most other homes. Last year, I observed countless instances of residents wasting large quantities of water:


Ř      watering their lawns all night;

Ř      watering their driveways and sidewalks in addition to their lawns;

Ř      watering their lawns in the middle of hot, sunny days;

Ř      watering their lawns when by-laws prohibit them from doing so;

Ř      power washing their driveways;

Ř      using water from a hose, rather than using a rake, to remove leaves from sidewalks.


This behaviour reflects a perception water is virtually costless.


As a result, the best and, perhaps, the only way to foster needed levels of water conservation is to increase the per-litre charge for water.


I would readily accept it if all of us in the region paid four times as much per litre as the current rates. On our most recent bill, this would have equated to just over $1 per day; some might argue this is still too inexpensive.


Water has to be priced at a rate at which people will take notice if we are to experience significant decreases in per capita consumption. I urge the region’s politicians and administrators to increase water rates, ideally up to four times current levels, and to not apologize for doing so.


I trust I am right in imagining the region could use the revenue. I trust I am also right a change to water rates would elicit water conservation far more rapidly and cost effectively than any public relations campaign would on its own (such a campaign may make sense in concert with a rate increase).


Any “political damage” that might stem from higher water rates will pale in comparison to the embarrassment officials and politicians will feel when the region encounters severe water shortages years sooner than it otherwise ought to have.