ON THE SOAPBOX:

City Water Bills Soar

by Lynda Lambert

It was bad enough when, during the drought, our water bills doubled; but, now, not even two years later, they are close to tripling again.
Recently, I was with a friend when she opened her City water bill. Usually, $79 or thereabouts, this water bill was for almost $300. I said, "It has to be wrong. The computer's slipped a cog or something. Give them a call."

She did and they said, "Oh, no. It's correct. We're adding on to the bill because of the sewer rebuilding we're having to do in your area." Not her sewer, mind you. Not her personal sewer line, but the City sewers.

An increase of 260%(?!) to pay for City infrastructure? Call me "stupid,” but I thought the nefarious property taxes and the outrageous surtax we pay were supposed to be for things like that. (Or, at the very least, the millions we spend on Lotto tickets should be worth something.)

It was bad enough when, during the drought, our water bills doubled; but, now, not even two years later, they are close to tripling again?

One of the moral tenets on which we have based this society is that no one should ever be allowed to charge for water. Water is the staff of life, after all, and if we allowed people to charge for water, then there would be people who, not having the money to pay, would die of thirst. That's why, unless it's bottled, water is free in restaurants. But how can that continue if water bills triple?

Perhaps, no longer being on the gold standard or the silver standard, we will soon be on the water standard. We will simply drag bottles of water around with us and pay for services in quarts instead of quarters.

I have not yet had a chance to query the City's water department on this issue. But if the woman my friend talked to is correct, then we are in deep trouble. I mean: three hundred dollars! That's a mortgage payment, a car payment for a Mercedes. "Sorry, Chase Manhattan, can't pay my mortgage this month... got the water bill."

One hundred dollars a month for water! That's the minimum payment if there's $3,000 on your charge card. "Sorry, MBNA... it's that water bill thing."

But, forget mortgages and charge cards—many people in this City can't afford heat; they can't afford decent food or a non-rat-infested roof over their heads. In the past, they've at least always been able to afford a simple drink of water and a shower; a flush of their toilet and clean clothes.

But, if what happened to my friend is now the standard, it appears that soon this will no longer be true. And I'm damned if I know what to do about it. (Anybody know where I could buy a water barrel?)


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This story was published on December 2, 2003.