Water Bills

THE CONTRARIAN

WATER BILLS

About 40 years ago, a cousin in the Niagara peninsula was delighted when the local municipality announced they would start a program of running water mains along the rural roads, including the one past his house, to be paid for by those benefitting.  His share would be $10 000 (equivalent to perhaps $80 000 today). Again, he was delighted. 

A few years ago, a friend of mine moved into town after 20 years or so in the country.  He joked that he flushed the toilet every time he went past the bathroom, just because he could, after all those years worrying about septic back-ups, dry wells, and various plumbing malfunctions. 

Fast forward. I recently listened to a rant which came out of the buzz around Dryden’s water meter bills.  “A hundred a month”, says the Barclay guy.  “Totally ridiculous.  I get my water free out of the lake. I could replace my water pump every year and still be money ahead”. 

Really.  He apparently didn’t notice that the $100 per month is for water AND sewer.  So let’s start at the beginning.  A septic system costs say $20 000, and needs to be replaced every 20 years or so, which works out to about $85 per month, plus inflation.  A drilled well with its elaborate, expensive pump might cost $10 000 to $20 000.  That pump will need maintenance and replacement one day, and wells have even been known to fail, so let’s add $40 per month to cover those eventual large bills.

The septic system is going to need to be pumped out occasionally at say $100 per pop, and of course that private water system uses power to run those pumps, so let’s add $20 per month for these operating costs.  Barclay guy saved the cost of a well by going to the lake, but he still needs to set aside something for pump maintenance/replacement, say $10 per month. He is paying perhaps $10 per month for electricity for his heat tracing, and of course he has to use bottled water and that costs perhaps another $20 per month.  Finally, a fire hydrant just down the street means the town guy’s fire insurance is in the order of $40 per month cheaper, and he can credit that to his water bill. 

So, a fair comparison would be town guy, $60 per month, Barclay guy about $200 per month.  City water and sewer looks like quite a bargain, even without considering the security of a safe, reliable water supply, and no more swampy spots and strange smells anywhere in the yard.  No wonder my cousin was delighted, especially as his property value immediately went up more than his cost for the water main installation.  That was 40 years ago, does that mean we are 40 years behind the times?

The real question is, why isn’t Barclay guy agitating for those bargain city services in his neighbourhood?   Perhaps because the adversarial mindset is still out there, rural versus urban, Barclay versus Town, when clearly by now we all ought to be citizens of the new City of Dryden, a dynamic rural community which includes an urban enclave. 

 

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