2 min read
Posted on 09.30.10
  • 2 min read
  • Posted on 09.30.10

One of the City's most important resources, and responsibilities, is the water supply. We have great water: it is, by the time it comes out of our taps, pure and good-tasting. (St. Louis even won a national award for the taste of our water recently.)

You know that residential water rates here went up in July and will most likely go up again the next two years. They are rising because of the accumulating costs of maintaining and replacing Civil War-era water mains and pipes; the rising costs of treatment chemicals; and declining revenue from the sale of water to commercial customers because of water conservation efforts (good thing) and the poor economy (bad thing).

When costs go up and revenues go down, either prices go up or quality goes down. Lesser quality water isn't a great option, so water prices have to go up.

The Water Division, is one of those odd creatures in the City budget: like the airport's, the Water Division's finances are self-contained. Whatever revenue it generates must be used at the Water Division. Higher water bills are paying for water service, not Forestry workers or police officers.

There are no real cuts to be made to the Water Division. They have already taken steps to cut costs as much as they can, given their current business model. They have laid people off, left positions vacant, furloughed employees, and reduced overtime. And the Water Division itself cannot be sold, without an unlikely change in the City Charter.

But, great water is likely to be an increasingly important commodity around the country. And St. Louis has lots of it.

That is something to consider.