Monday, April 25, 2011

Water Use Slowing but Rates Increase

Water use in at least one Arizona metro area seems to be slowing according to a news item reported several times on KJZZ, an NPR radio station in Tempe, and the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson.  

Despite an increasing population in the Tucson Water Service Area, served by several utilities, water use is only slightly higher than a decade ago.

Use is even less when calculated on a per-person basis.  That number has dropped from 164 to 133 gallons per day since the year 2000.

Reasons for this decline are only speculative but range from the slower economy to residents’ changes in income, household water bills, their attitudes about their financial future, and even their mortgage situation asserts Gary Woodard, an associate director of hydrology and water resources at the University of Arizona.

However, the water utilities want the economics to cut two ways. 

When supply is adequate and demand drops as it has in some communities, prices should decrease . . . at least according to our laws of supply and demand.  Because demand has dropped, the water utilities shouldn't cry poor because of sliding revenues and shouldn't charge higher rates to remedy their problem.

But, that’s exactly what they’re doing by proposing an 8.2% increase for fiscal 2011 – 2012.

The solution, says a friend with former ties to Ohio’s Public Utilities Commission, is to establish a similar organization in Arizona that would regulate rates, not with an eye to profit but what utility rates are necessary to cover costs.

That may be too much to expect short term but what we can count on, long term, is more expensive water.

To review background on this, click on the following link: