The Water Plan

Our View: Water plan could increase fairness while encouraging conservation

Posted: August 17, 2012 – 12:14am  |  Updated: August 17, 2012 – 11:53am

The concept of setting water bills by charging customers based on the amount of water they are actually using is such a simple one many residents could legitimately wonder why Lubbock was not already doing it.

Mayor Glen Robertson thought water bills should be more more closely based on actual consumption and campaigned hard on the issue. He followed through by introducing his plan in late July before the rest of the City Council, where it was well-received.

Robertson’s plan is based on reducing the base water fee charged to all consumers by 75 percent over a three-year period and increasing the rate per use of 1,000 gallons of water per month.

Customers must pay the base water fees before they use a single drop and regardless of how much water they will use in a month. The fee is $28 a month for households that use a three-quarter-inch meter — which is slightly more than half the of those in Lubbock — and $46.74 for households with a one-inch meter.

“The problem I have with it is it is extremely inequitable to low-income families,” Robertson said.

His idea is to reduce the base fee 25 percent a year for the next three years. At the same time, the rate per 1,000 gallons will be increased.

The customers will pay a closer amount to what they actually use, whether they are big users or small users.

Robertson believes it will encourage conservation, which is something that should be a high priority for residents of a city with Lubbock’s climate.

“I am convinced the cheapest water we will ever find in the future is the water we will save,” he said.

The second result he is seeking is an increased fairness for all water customers.

“I want the consumer to make the conscious decision to save money and then be able to do it,” Robertson said.

It is a logical approach to bill consumers for the water they use, and it is made all the stronger by Robertson’s determination to take the economic changes slowly. He said he didn’t think it would be prudent to take a big bite overnight.

At the end of each year, he envisions the city evaluating how well the plan worked for the year and making any adjustments that may be necessary.

“I thought a really slow and steady approach was the best thing we could do,” the mayor said.

The favorable reactions from his fellow City Council members would indicate the new plan could become a reality.

Lubbock’s Water Advisory Commission voted unanimously to approve the water rate restructuring plan.

Robertson said the matter would be addressed by the Council between now and Sept. 15, and the new rates could go into effect on Dec. 1.

The use of water per household in Lubbock averages about 7,000 gallons a month. If the new plan would inspire local residents to cut back even a modest amount in their monthly usage, it could have very positive long-range effects and protect the city’s water sources.

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