Rising utility bills subsidize luxury student apartments and Stan Kroenke's malls. Here's how to change all that.
By Bill Weitkemper
COLUMBIA, Mo 9/17/13 (Op-Ed) -- To promote water conservation, treat all water customers fairly, comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense program for water efficiency, and increase revenue by as much as one million dollars - without raising rates, the city’s policy of allowing multiple dwelling units (e.g. apartments) and businesses to share a common (master) water meter must change.
As of of April 25, 2013, 973 residential and commercial master water meters supplied water to approximately 9,000 dwelling units and 1,000 businesses, according to City of Columbia information.
Individually metered dwelling units use 15% less water than master metered dwelling units do, said a two year, 2004 study from the EPA, ten municipal water utilities, the National Apartment Association and National Multi Housing Council.
That's approximately 8,000 gallons less water a year, per household.
A 1999 study of California, Texas and Florida properties found an even greater savings: individually-metered dwelling units use 18% to 39% less water than master-metered dwelling units do.
Meanwhile, water and sewer costs are rising faster than inflation. The cost of water increased 53% from 1999 to 2003, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The EPA’s WaterSense program, effective January 1, 2013, seeks to reduce water usage by 20% and lower utility bills by encouraging water and wastewater infrastructure savings.
The program requires each dwelling unit be individually metered for water or equipped with technology capable of tracking water use and making the information available to residents.
The city of Columbia’s policy of water meter sharing means increasingly expensive water is being flushed down the drain by residents and occupants who are not financially accountable for their own water usage. Low flow devices help, but individual water meters are the best way to control costs and pass savings on to all customers.
-- Bill Weitkemper retired from the City of Columbia in 2012 after nearly 40 years service, most recently as a public works supervisor.