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Opinion column: Water rates Ė losing twice in one week

Posted: Wednesday, Mar 27th, 2013

Last week, needless to say, I was not at my best, especially when it came to the city of Torrington and its changing water rates.

So, first things first, I want to apologize for Fridayís front-page story that was blatantly wrong. It was my fault and a regrettable mistake.

At the paper, if weíre not accurate, weíre nothing. If you, as the reader, canít trust what you read in the Guide, Telegram or other publication, then we Ė and I Ė have failed. I take that personally. Hopefully, everyone caught the correction/retraction on the front page and now understands what the city has planned with its water rates.

Now that thatís cleared up, the mistake was only one part of the potential city ordinance that troubled me. I say potential because the increase has only passed through one reading. It takes three to become law, so itís not necessarily a done deal yet.

But, for the sake of this article, letís pretend it is. For Torrington, it continues a trend of rates that I find to be inexplicably high.

Let me set the scene. I live by myself in a small house. I am rarely home, and, when I am, itís generally fleeting. I donít own any big electronics outside of a TV and refrigerator. I rarely have to take out the trash because eggs, pasta, bread and other staples of my diet donít take up much space. I shower once or twice a day. I donít water my lawn. I donít wash my car at home.

Yet, I often approach $100 in utility charges. Keep in mind, this is with natural gas heat through another source and does not include air conditioning use. I can only imagine what medium to large families are paying.

Iím sorry for the TMI portion of that, but thatís not actually my complaint. I donít mind paying the rates the city has established. Iíve accepted it and wasnít even going to write this editorial as of earlier this month.

That changed with the structure of this new ordinance. If you didnít read the front-page story, basically men and women with a lot more experience living in Torrington decided to pass the cost of getting water to you and me onto everyone through an increased service charge.

This money will go toward maintenance costs, infrastructure improvements and equipment Ė all very important stuff. Itís not the cost or what it goes to, though, itís the system used.

Water is quickly becoming our most important resource. Iím not talking about Torrington, Goshen County or even Wyoming. Iím talking everywhere, from water-thirsty regions like Coloradoís Front Range (look up the Million pipeline) to those affected by the Colorado Compact.

Just ask a local dryland farmer or even one with water rights how important water is. The Earth is getting warmer. Thatís not political; thatís a fact. Water is going to be harder to come by and droughts will continue.

Itís time Ė simply put Ė to forget the beauty of a bright green lawn, unless youíre willing to pay for it. Itís time to consider that water, much like natural gas, is a commodity that may not be around forever and that it should be charged as such. After all, if I choose to keep my house a balmy 80 degrees all winter so I can maximize my time in flip flops, wonít I pay for that?

I think the base rate should stay the same in Torrington. I would also keep the customer service charge low and maintain the basic usage of water per 1,000 gallons low. After that, those who choose to go over that amount should bear the largest burden.

I know most will disagree with me, but thatís just how non-renewable commodities work. If I drive a gas-guzzling SUV, I anticipate Iím going to pay more money. Itís time Torrington realized water is no different by incentivizing the ordinance to promote conservation, not just an across-the-board raise in rates.

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