Author’s Note: If you find puns pungent, wade no further into this blog since it dives so deep into pollution finance that you will probably be drowning after the first paragraph.
In order to help finance pollution to the greatest extent possible, the Pollution Finance Center strongly recommends always setting rates for crucial environmental services as low as possible. Thus we can ensure that our water and wastewater systems will collapse with a loud “plop!” maximizing toxic discharges into the water, air, and soil. Then things will go swimmingly for polluters everywhere!
Let’s be candid: at the PFC we know that generating revenue for water infrastructure projects has become a bit tricky lately. Less construction means just a trickle of revenue from tap and impact fees. But these types of connection fees are only a drop in the bucket of water utility finance anyway. The real way to pump up and generate revenue is the rates charged, but raising rates for water/sewer service during such tough economic times is like swimming upstream. With the sluggish economy, surely water infrastructure deterioration will also pipe down, just for a few years until things pan out. We can worry about maintaining or replacing the infrastructure later, and hope that we’re magically awash in cash in the future. Because, you know, things (land, cars, energy, etc.) always get cheaper as time gushes on, and liquid capital is everywhere, right?
The PFC realizes that water utilities that don’t have a rainy day fund and proper asset management programs may not have the money to fix leaks and prevent sewage spills. But public health, the natural environment and future generations get too much airtime. Why worry about safe fish to eat and what our children will be drinking tomorrow? When we look at the BIG picture, do these things really float to the top? With water, maybe a splashier attitude would be “use it or lose it.” Rapacious overconsumption of scarce resources due to poor pricing is something we can all feel flushed with enthusiasm about!
After all, water is, you know, free, right? A residential customer can just rent a large truck, go to a local lake, fill-up about 4,300 empty one-gallon milk containers, filter and disinfect it at home and get out of paying the $35 for the whole month! (Plus they can then go build their own wastewater treatment plant for good measure; though if they don’t have a few million dollars lying around, they might be up the creek without a paddle for that idea…)
So, “water we waiting for,” let’s see those water rates start sinking! Happy April Fools’ Day!!!
By Stacey “Icky” Berahzer and David “Sludge” Tucker, Pollution Finance Center