Water waste and wastewater

Our local daily went to town this morning, giving its most prominent space to naming the ten largest individual water users, along with the ten largest commercial ones: No dry days at these homes: Armstrong tops list of Austin’s biggest water users for June, byline Marty Toohey. Commercial users are chip-fab outfits, hospitals, and the jail. To his credit, Lance Armstrong was willing to comment to the reporter, unlike most of the ten, who included Jerry Jeff Walker.

Again, as with electricity use, there are regressive factors in the water rate system. Before a tap is ever opened, there’s a residential customer charge of $5.35 for water and one of $7.10 for wastewater. The astonishing thing, though, is that, although the number-one water consumer is reported to have been billed for 222,900 gallons for the month of June, that person and all other high-volume residential irrigators are charged under the “Wastewater Service” portion of the bill only for the first 8,600 gallons used. For those first 8,600 gallons of water, the wastewater charges are higher than the actual water charges. If all were charged a wastewater cost up to the very last gallon used, smaller users wouldn’t be charged such regressive rates.

Local blog Zanthan has asked for comments on water use by gardeners during essentially the same billing period. Many of those comments are from Austin and nearby. Here at the adobe hacienda, where we maintain a garden, dozens of potted plants, and a habitat friendly to insects, birds, and four-legged critters, water use billed from June 2 through July 1 was 20,500 gallons, about as much as we ever use, no matter what the calendar month. That water does go to the garden. We inadvertently left a hose bib open for nearly an hour one day. All watering here is done via hose-end sprinkler and within the regulation hours on the regulation days, sometimes just one of the two days. Plants in pots and in a couple of ground plantings are watered more frequently, using a hand-held hose with a trigger cutoff on the end.

Remember; Architectural Digest showed us some of the Armstrong homestead in its July issue. The local daily does not report whether the information on water use was obtained pursuant to a public information / open records request. I know that it’s with difficulty, sometimes, that we’ve been able to obtain information about our own utility account. The comments at the on-line site of the story just keep a-comin’.

Update: information on Armstrong water bill for subsequent month now available If June consumption was evidence of profligacy, what’s to be said about July? Read all about it: Champion Cyclist and Now Champion Guzzler of Austin Water (byline James C. McKinley, Jr., NYT, 16 August).

2 Comments so far

  1. tthomas48 on August 15th, 2008 @ 11:03 am

    Austin Contrarian has many great articles on how the city could make money, make the system less regressive and help to encourage conservation by just having the cost of a gallon water increase exponentially the more you use. A good article on the flaws in the cities plans here:

    Another absurd consequence of the City’s refusal to price water properly

  2. odoublegood on August 15th, 2008 @ 11:29 am

    Thanks for that link. I’d also like to say that those with irrigation / sprinkler services, licensed or not, seem, almost without exception, to water all night every night. Such excessive irrigation sometimes seems to cause part of the lawns so treated to rot and die (what’s the emoticon for Schadenfreude?).

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