Last week my editorial blog asked readers to share opinions on the best way for utilities to approach the public when shifting from a flat rate policy to metered services. We received a number of informative responses, and I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone for participating.
One particular Virginia water utility manager posed an interesting question that I would like to share with you. Here is what he wrote:
“Across the country there are many variables that impact the cost of water. In regions where supplies are scarce, water suppliers have developed rate structures that provide incentives to conserve. [Areas] where water is plentiful have flat rate pricing. As regulations change, the cost of water treatment rises. We also need to look at infrastructure condition and prepare long-term plans for replacement or rehab. With all factors pointing to rising cost, suppliers will need to raise rates. Flat rate pricing will [require] across the board increases for all. A family of four using a large volume of water will pay the same as the little old lady who is living on a fixed income and using a small amount of water. Should users who have irrigation systems pay the same amount for water as the little old lady? Modern rate structures should take all the factors into account. There should be rate tiers that encourage conservation and also tiers for those who can afford irrigation systems. When a flat rate system is used, the people who are low users are subsidizing the people who use a lot of water.
There are many new fixtures (and appliances) designed to save water. Could this be the next federal government program—cash for water clunkers—[offering] rebates for replacing your old toilet or washing machine?”
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