Woolwich & Wellesley Township's Local Community Newspaper | Elmira, Ontario, Canada
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Wet or dry season, water rates and rules keep coming

Got a rain barrel? Chances are it’s full. And chances are you’ve not had much call to draw on that water. Instead of the scorched lawns and stressed plants typical of midsummer, we’re awash in green lawns. Too bad there wasn’t a way to store it, the better to offset the ever-growing cost of municipal water and to bypass the ever-strident attempts to curb our usage.

On the whole, the long winter, wet spring and not-very-seasonal summer will help to recharge surface and groundwater levels. But that won’t do you any good when the summer weather of recent years returns and you need to draw on supplies: you’ll simply pay more and face more bureaucratic red tape.

Necessary or not, increases do not play well with the public, the people who have been digging deeper into their pockets to pay for water. Part of the problem, of course, stems from a public perception that takes water for granted.

As well, there is a growing contingent of users who rely on bottled water, filtration systems and other alternatives given their distrust of municipal systems. For these people, the increases may seem even more galling.

We’re paying more, but receiving nothing more in return – at least not much that we can see. To the contrary, the quality of the water from an aesthetic and taste perspective appears to be growing worse all the time, prompting the aforementioned use of bottled water.

Uses such as lawn-watering, car-washing and sprinkler-jumping have long been under attack here. Ironically, the success of conservation efforts have led to even larger hikes, as revenues decline precisely as municipalities spend more money, refusing to curb their own expenditures.

To be fair, municipalities have been incurring increased costs due to provincial rules, much of it knee-jerk reaction to what happened in Walkerton. For communities with safe drinking water, the extra layer of red tape has served only to boost costs, with no effect on the product that pours out of our taps. Such mindless over-regulation is rampant in all facets of government, not just those related to water.

As with electricity, getting off the grid, or at least reducing the flow, is a fine idea (see debates past over Woolwich’s attempts to move residents from private water and sewer systems to the endless cycle of municipal services).

While the record amounts of rain – preceded by the huge dump of snow we got last winter – has done wonders for the Grand River system and groundwater levels, there’s no reason to slacken efforts to reduce our water consumption, officials maintain. One wet year does not a pattern make. Next summer could easily see the return to the dry spells that have been the norm in recent years.

This summer’s rainfall in fact encourages additional water-conservation strategies. Beyond low-flush toilets and rain barrels, we could look at ways to make use of what falls from the sky, perhaps adding cisterns or storage tanks much larger than a barrel. Rainwater harvesting is a very good idea – you don’t need drinking water to flush toilets or water the lawn.

Good for the environment. And good for your wallet, though reduced usage won’t stop municipalities from raising prices and finding ways to take more money – stormwater fees, anyone? – to suit their needs rather than the needs of residents.

A little more local for your inbox.

Seven days. One newsletter. Local reporting about people and places you
won't find anywhere else. Stay caught up with The Observer This Week.

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