Editor's Note: the following was submitted to Sharon Patch by local resident Paul Lauenstein.
Sharon's conservation-oriented water rates have helped improve the town's water use efficiency by 20 percent, saving over 100 million gallons per year compared to the 1990's, despite a 7-percent increase in population. Higher rates for higher usage encourage conservation year round, while higher summer rates provide additional incentive to conserve water when demand is highest and local water resources are most stressed. A modest fixed quarterly fee of $15 covers the cost of servicing each account without unduly penalizing those who conserve.
Unfortunately, the current rate structure is under fire from those who would prefer a single water rate instead of higher rates for higher usage, and a fixed quarterly fee of up to $50 instead of the current $15. The proposed changes would more than double water bills for those who conserve the most, while halving bills for heavy users.
An online petition to retain the current conservation water rate structure can be found at here. Below is a sampling of comments posted by some of the signers:
"I strongly support water conservation and am very proud of the progress that Sharon has made. I would very much like to see Sharon keep the ascending block-rate structure, higher summer fees, and low fixed base rate."
"We need to encourage conservation. The current water rate system absolutely does this."
"Sharon is a smart town. Please help us make smart decisions to avoid waste and unnecessary fees for those citizens making smart, healthy choices."
"It's a no brainer - reward conservation, not excessive use."
"As a former Planning Board Member, who worked to put zoning protections of our groundwater in place, I support the Water Conservation rates for water use. Whatever helps cut down on water consumption is good for the town and good for water quality. Please keep our existing conservation-oriented water rate structure."
"We need to conserve our water supply in Sharon. Our current water rate structure is fair and environmentally progressive."
"Conservation water rates are something we can do to encourage efficient water use, and thereby help make the world a better place for our children and grandchildren."
"I strongly support Sharon's existing conservation-oriented water rate structure. If it is changed, it will cost everyone a lot more in years to come - rates will inevitably go up, we'll have to rely on outside agencies to provide water, and our natural resources will suffer. Please take the long view and focus on affordability, safety and fairness for everyone. It's only fair for future generations as well as the plants and wildlife that need clean, abundant water to survive."
"I would add that jacking up the base rate hurts our seniors living on a fixed income, retirees with limited incomes, and anyone watching their wallets. The current system also encourages people to fix those leakey faucets."
"I strongly support the current water rate structure. Recent proposed changes to the structure would place an unfair burden on single or two person households – particularly seniors living on fixed incomes. Those who choose to have large families benefit greatly by living in Sharon. They should pay more for more water consumption, as should those whose increased consumption is the result of underground irrigation systems."
"The rates are working fine as they are to conserve water. Please don't try to fix what isn't broken."
"Water rates should encourage conservation, so having a flat rate would likely discourage what we are trying to promote. I favor having a tiered rate system where high usage is more costly and is a better economic principle when trying to make users understand that conservation is also economically beneficial."
"Water conservation protects our drinking water and our fire-department's ability to protect property. Graduated usage rates, the current system, work excellently to encourage conservation and wise, not wasteful, usage. DO NOT CHANGE the current successful system to one that a) won't work and b) punishes those who conserve."
"We wholeheartedly support water conservation efforts currently used in Sharon, including the current water rate system."
"Let's focus on water conservation please. If you don't conserve you pay, no free rides for the water abusers."
"How could you NOT get behind this rate structure? It puts the home owner in control of his/her bill AND it is the only way to motivate home owners to conserve water."
"Moving to a single rate fixed base would result in less incentive for the highest volume users to conserve water. Water conservation is more important now than ever, with persistent drought threatening. Sharon's current ascending water rate structure is fair and responsible."
"I strongly support the forward-thinking, conservation-oriented approach embodied in the current water rate structure in the Town of Sharon. As a non-MWRA town sitting on high ground, it is essential that we conserve the resources we have. Having grown up in the town, I understand how fragile our water resources are. The proposed rate structure would create incentives for waste, and as a family that consumes less water we feel that we shouldn't face a hike in our water bill in order to subsidize the non-essential usage of other families. We should retain a structure that encourages conservative use of natural resources. Doing so will also encourage use of natural, drought tolerant landscaping options, which has the added benefit of keeping Sharon natural-looking (something many residents prize greatly)."
Water conservation helps contain the cost of supplying the community with water. It also improves water quality and reduces stress on the environment, especially during hot, dry weather.
If you agree that Sharon's conservation water rates are beneficial and appropriate, please add your name and comments to the petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/keep-conservation-water-rates.
Sharon, MA 02067