Friday, October 4, 2013

Petition to the Grants Pass City Council: Change our water rate structure to promote irrigation.

A major goal of the City of Grants Pass is to “be a city that looks safe and is safe.”  Well-watered, well-maintained properties are pleasing to the eye and orderly, which looks safe.  Watered yards, plants, and misters also cool and humidify the area, and feed the water cycle through evaporation and transpiration, causing rain.
Unwatered yards are ugly even when mowed, and they too often are not mowed, because no one likes to maintain ugly.  They encourage litter, vandalism, and other crime.  They are hot and dusty in summer.  They are often a fire hazard as well.
Grants Pass once had unmetered water, and nearly everyone watered their yards and maintained them.  But now we have meters and tiered water rates that discourage water use, charging little per unit for a very low base and more per unit for greater use, in several tiers.  This has discouraged watering and gardening of residential, commercial, and public landscapes, and has likewise discouraged landscape maintenance. 
The vast majority of the cost of providing clean water is overhead in plant and people; very little of it is unit cost for cleaning and pumping.  Discouraging watering of yards has made the City raise rates several times to cover the loss of income from lower water use; the last time the city raised rates, you raised the base rate to stop making the water plant’s bad financial situation worse.
Gardening in Grants Pass has become a privilege of the middle class, the rich, and those willing to bear the cost of the water plant, which is borne by fewer people as more people stop watering their yards.  One can tell now, as we could not before, who is poor or cheap.
          Many poor people, especially our elderly poor, would like to better care for their yards, but it is hard to maintain a dry yard, even for those who know how, and even harder to make it pretty.  All of us would also like predictable, even monthly billing for water.
          THEREFORE, we, the undersigned voters of Grants Pass, respectfully request that the Grants Pass City Council change our water rate structure: Charge each household a flat rate based on the average household’s winter water use, sufficient to cover Water Department overhead; price the second tier at a lower unit cost sufficient to cover the City’s unit costs of providing water; and provide the third and top tier, presumed to be used for irrigation, cooling, and washing, at no cost.  Charge businesses an individual base rate based on each business’ average winter water use, as you do for sewer, accounting for much greater size differences and water use.

This is an advisory petition
You may sign this petition on Saturday at the Growers Market between 10:00 and 1:00 PM or contact:
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener        541-955-9040