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Water Rates and Low Income Users: Possible Fair Solution
The honest version of discounting water rates for lower income users is to admit it causes a surcharge on higher income users and violates in spirit, if not in law, the principle of equal treatment. Here’s a way to help lower income users without discriminating.
Establish an acceptable rate for a certain amount of water per month. The same for businesses. Any household or business that uses more than the certain amount of gallons pays for the extra water at a rate high enough to support the entire system.
Lower income users will have a reasonable amount for their households. They may have to learn some water saving habits, and perhaps some might need help with water saving devices–low flush toilets, shower heads, etc.
Call it a luxury water use fee. This structure works in places that must ration water. Santa Fe, New Mexico is an example.
How to do it?
1. Establish the necessary water, sewer, storm water budget for a household.
2. Establish “basic use” quantity for households and businesses and estimate how much revenue that would generate.
3. Estimate the total amount of water consumed “above basic” use volumes.
4. Take the part of the system budget not paid for in basic rates and divide it by the number of gallons used over and above the basic use allowances. The result is the luxury use fee.