Monday, December 7, 2015

Same Discussion a Hundred Years Ago

From time to time, the advantages of metering the water use of individual households comes before the Common Council, and it is regularly decided that the City will continue with the current practice of charging everyone the same flat rate. The last time the issue was raised, the arguments against it included the possibility that the amount of money raised by the City through water and sewer rates might actually decrease if people paid based on their actual usage and that access to clean water is a basic human right and hence households using less water should subsidize households using more. The notion that paying for the actual amount of water used might encourage people to conserve water never seems to be a big part of the discussion.

The discussion of water meters goes back a long way. One hundred years ago, in 1915, a Charter Revision Committee, created by the Common Council, was working on revisions to the city charter. The departments, as well as individual residents, were invited to submit their suggestions for amendments to the charter. What follows is a suggestion from the Commission of Public Works, which was published in the Hudson Evening Register on December 7, 1915.



  1. Wow, they really had it going in 1915. Who knew?

    I don't pass judgement on water-wasters, but as a water conservationist I resent subsidizing those who do waste water. Where a resource is free, it's human nature to be wasteful. If people wish to pay for the privilege, however, then their water use is entirely their own affair.

    For many of us, we know that our water bill is way too high. But does anyone have any idea of the short- and long-term costs of converting to metered use? If not, why not? Why can't we have this discussion?

    In the further interest of rationality, metering would give us a very accurate idea of how much water we all actually use, which can then be subtracted from the total volume entering the wastewater treatment plant. The remainder is the amount water we're now treating from sources other than what we use, which is the only way to assess every sewer system's limited capacity.

    Right now, because we only know the amount that leaves the Churchtown Reservoir, we're making gigantic decisions based on rough estimates worked out on the back of an envelope.

    (Correction: unlike 1915, we the public are not privy to any such decisions, because up to now the public's been routinely, and even illegally, excluded from discussions about the comings and goings of water.)

    1. The cost would be approximately zero, as New York State treats water meters as information systems and will pay for the entire cost.

    2. Approximately $0.

      Great answer, thanks!

    3. Having spent my lifetime drawing water from wells I learned how to conserve water .

      I find it ridiculous that I as a single tenant has to pay for multiple units. A family of five, using all the water they desire pay the same amount per unit as a couple, or as in my case, a single person.

      Bring on the meters !