How Can Water Conservation Find a Balance?

The cry for water conservation is one that has grown louder through 2013 as California experienced one of the worst droughts in history.  The drought has caused Governor Brown to declare a statewide emergency and ask all residents to reduce their water consumption by 20%.  While this seems a strong move to conserve, it is already common practice amongst educational facilities in Ohio.

Since 2009, the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) has required that all new schools that use OSFC funding be designed to a minimum of 20% reduction in water use from a baseline standard.  This requirement has helped to lead the charge in installing low-flow fixtures and high efficiency equipment throughout schools.  However, the Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) has deemed that our intense conservation of water has impacted their budget.

On June 3rd, 2014, GCWW asked Cincinnati City Council to approve a 7.5% increase for water rates in the city.  As of June 16, 2014, the current minimum charge for one family unit is $53.88 per month.  The GCWW proposal would have raised that charge by a little over $4, to $57.88.  The reasoning given by GCWW is that residents are being MORE CONSERVATIVE with their water so they need to raise rates to offset the decreased usage.

Now, this creates a bit of a catch-22 situation.  If schools are to receive the funding they need to build they must comply with OSFC standards.  The other option is to propose a levy, which raises taxes of those in the district.  However, building to the OSFC standard requires a 20% reduction in water use, which displeases Greater Cincinnati Water Works.  Now as a consumer of water in the Cincinnati area, I myself must pay GCWW for the responsible designs I’ve put in place.

This payment now comes at a rate of 4%, approved June 11, 2014, rather than the initial 7.5% increase.  Rather than a $4 increase it amounts to $2, but when applied to the quarter of million people living in city limits it is estimated to be an additional $500 million per month.  Rather than continue to raise rates it would be refreshing if GCWW budgeted responsibly and helped the fight to conserve water, rather than punish us for doing what is right.

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