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Adjustable Water Rates Could Boost Conservation

Posted October 19, 2007

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— Many North Carolina cities and towns have historically had abundant supplies of water that they sold cheaply to lure and reward industry, but some officials believe volume discounts should be scrapped to encourage conservation.

To avert a water crisis in the midst of a deepening statewide drought, Gov. Mike Easley this week asked all communities to cut back their water consumption.

Unlike what happens with commodities such as gasoline or food, prices for water usually don't increase to help curb demand amid a perceived shortage. Many experts said adjustable rates for water usage need to be part of long-term planning.

"Water pricing is one tool that's effective for water conservation," said John Morris, director of the state Division of Water Resources.

Yet, most water systems in North Carolina continue to offer a discounted rate for heavy users. For example, Clayton, Wilson, Dunn, Henderson and Robeson County all offer a decreasing rate as customers use more water.

"We've not thought of ourselves as being a water-poor state. We've been a very water-rich state. So, it made sense in the past as an economic development tool," said John Spurrell, a senior policy analyst with the North Carolina League of Municipalities.

A changing corporate climate and the drought have combined to begin slowly shifting the thinking on water rates, Spurrell said.

"The trends have been towards structures which charge more for more usage," he said.

Communities like Cary, Holly Springs, Fayetteville and Moore County all increase their water rates based on more usage. The Orange Water and Sewer Authority, which serves the Chapel Hill area, voted Thursday night for an increasing rate structure for residential customers to discourage use.

Raleigh, Durham, Fuquay-Varina, Smithfield and other communities prefer a uniform rate for water use, however.

Water customers in Raleigh, for example, pay $1.70 for 748 gallons of water.

Raleigh City Councilwoman Jessie Taliaferro said officials are concerned that increasing rates would hit large, low-income families the hardest.

"They're going to be using more water through no fault of their own. You have to think about who you're impacting with prices," Taliaferro said.

Conservation also can cut into revenue for building and expanding reservoirs to add to the future water supply.


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  • likemenow Oct 19, 2007

    This story is quite the shocker...attach a market-driven supply/demand curve to accurately price a scarce commodity?....How did anyone in government reach this conclusion?...lol..what will they think of next?...Fair-tax ideas?...no way..

  • lynddsy Oct 19, 2007

    i don't think it's fair to have an overall increase for water. increase the ones that are using it to do as they please. i know they are issuing fines but, maybe raising their water bills for a year would be more effective.

  • patrickandaiden Oct 19, 2007

    Or maybe you jerks can let your lawn die. Unless you like the idea of going thirsty. Or just move back up north where you came from.

  • SteamTrain Oct 19, 2007

    Another idea was to impose excessive water use rates only during certain stages of a water crisis....but it would have to be a pretty hefty increase for that to have an effect. Someone suggested a 5% increase, but a change from $100 to $105 on a monthly bill wouldn't really be noticed. Go from $100 to $150 for not modifying your water usage, and folks start to take more care. Unfortunately, we only see our bills every 2 months and a change by those who just don't care wouldn't happen in time to avert a crisis.

  • common_sense_plz Oct 19, 2007

    OH geez...I see their point in doing this, but if it would actually work or not who knows, for osme it will not because you know how your friendly neighbor is....they will tap into it at night, and use it and who gets charged...not the theif. What I would like to know is what are they going to do with the storm water run off tax they imposed....it has not rained, so there fore I believe that every citizen of Raleigh is entitled to refund.

  • howdiditgettothis Oct 19, 2007

    There are irresponsible rich people and irresponsible poor people.

    Unfortunately, it is the middle class that takes the brunt for the idiocy of both.

    For the rich, add a usage tax. Double the tax for yard usage.

    For the poor, add a stupidity tax. Get a job and stop spending our tax money on your cable tv, alcohol, cigarettes, fake fingernails, candy, designer wear. Government assistance should not be a generational lifestyle.

    Give the middle class a tax break.

    I agree with Steve Crisp that we shouldn't have to pay taxes twice on something. But yet, every Sept. I get a tax bill for the car that I have already paid taxes on (when purchased).
    When you earn money you pay tax, when you spend money you pay tax. When you die, your pay taxes (your estate is taxed).

    The politicians WE ELECT take stupidity to a whole new level.
    No contingency plans.....no plan or thought to natural disasters. Who are these brainless fools?

  • smitty Oct 19, 2007

    Water is not free for the same reason ambulance service is not free. Some people are generally stupid and would abuse it if there was no incentive not to. Imagine people calling 911 every time Bobby scraped his knee or Mommy had a headache.

  • Red Oct 19, 2007

    A market economy for water would imply healthy competition. Last I checked, the Culligan man didn't do toilets.

  • Steve Crisp Oct 19, 2007

    Not socialist at all. There are minimum city services that citizens cede authority to a munincipality to provide for them. And we pay taxes for the provision of those services. As such, we should not have to pay twice for those things which we have already paid for. Having to pay for water and sewer is like being sent a bill when the police show up at your house because you called them to report a breakin.

  • smitty Oct 19, 2007

    Steve, that sounds a little socialist, I'm shocked!