Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Stop Charging Us for Watering

Speech to the Grants Pass City Council, 8-7-13

Honorable Mayor, Council, and Manager:
We don’t have to breathe smoke until winter.  I’m breathing in my yard a lot easier than downtown, because I use misters and sprinklers to keep the smoke down.  And I’m not even watering more than necessary to keep my yard alive and healthy.  I pay about $80 extra a month to do it.  We shouldn’t have to pay through the nose to maintain our yards.
Watering one’s property with sprinklers and misters benefits oneself and neighbors by cleaning and humidifying the air.  If enough people do it, we can even make rain.  An article in Science News tells us that farmers irrigating in California cause more rain in the Four Corners area and put more water in the Colorado River to water farms in the desert.
          This should not be surprising.  It’s just an illustration on a large scale of the water cycle we were taught as children.  It works on the local scale as well.  In our bowl of a valley, when we have a high pressure inversion, water can evaporate and cause thunderstorms in our valley, if we throw enough water in the air.  When we are not in inversion, it can blow upstream and fill the Rogue and Klamath Rivers with rain.
          We used to make rain, in the ‘80s, by watering our yards and farms.  We had thunderstorms nearly every week in ’85 and ’86 when I lived here.  A lot of creeks were running year-round then that are seasonal now.  What changed?  The way we charge for water.
          The provision of water is properly a service, like sewer, not the sale of a commodity, like electricity.  The water we get from the river is essentially free; the service is cleaning and delivering it, and like sewer, is mostly overhead in plant and employees.
          Pricing it as a commodity has put us into a spiral of rising rates and dropping usage.  The city admitted this a few years back when asking for a rate increase.  The last time you raised rates, you raised the basic rate, which at least did not make matters worse.
          A few years ago, the city started charging for sewer based on winter water use rather than a flat rate per household.  The same could be done for water, rather than charging us extra for watering our yards.

          Please make this an emergency ordinance.  Let us put enough water in the air now to make rain that will fill our seasonal creeks again and put these fires out.