Why we need an individual meter mandate!

I've always thought witnessed that if you don't pay for it, you don't care how it gets used.  A small percentage of the population will always be conservationist minded, but largely, the human species only conserves out of necessity.  We evolved to take in as many calories as possible when they were available in order to store energy for times when calories were not available; which is why our society has issues with storing an overabundance of calories.  But food energy is not the only thing we waste, wasting natural resources also seems to be an evolutionary trait.  Because of this, individuals must be forced to bear the burden of the resources they use.  Let me explain why I'm venting...

In my town-home community of 150+ homes each home pays its own electrical and natural gas consumption, but the water is not individually metered.  There is only 1 water meter for the whole community, and the total usage is divided equally among all 150 homes.  I'm sure the home builders or the county thought that it would have been much too expensive to put individual water meters on each home, that or they were just too lazy to bother.  Now, this would be a fine plan if all 150 homeowners were conservationists, but they're not.

My neighbor decided she was unhappy with the landscaper's choice of drought resistant bushes for her front parcel (only about 3' by 4') so she planted a whole jungle's worth of plants and flowers there.  I was able to overlook this exercise in questionable taste with the knowledge that the plants and flowers would probably shrivel up and die in a few days because our homes face south and the blacktop on the road and brick in our entryways routinely raises the temperature in that area to over 100° F.  After the first few days, it looked like my hopes and dreams were being fulfilled, but then my neighbor caught on to Mother Nature's shared loathing of her choice in landscaping and decided she would start watering her "garden".

The smart thing to do would be to get a hose and spend about 2 minutes standing over the landscaping and watering it, but no, that would be 2 minutes too long for her and it's not like she has to pay for the water.  Instead, she sets the hose up on a sprinkler and sets it over the landscaping.  I would be fine with this setup if she only watered it for a few minutes, but she waters it for hours. We arrived home from Father's Day brunch at 12:30 PM, and at 3 PM the plants were still being watered.  She waters the road more than the plants.

And this is the problem when individuals don't have to pay the price of their consumption.  If she did have to pay her own water bill, she might be surprised how much it was costing her to to leave the sprinkler on for 2+ hours on a 12 sq. ft. parcel of land.  If it were me, I would worry what my neighbors would think about the fact that I was so blatantly wasting a resource that we all pay for, but as they say, ignorance is bliss.  And because she doesn't have her own meter, she can remain ignorant.

The free market can't always correctly manage natural resources.  If our community had control of the HOA, I'm sure we could set a rule about not watering your plants over a set period of time, but since there are a few more homes for sale in the community, the home builder still has control over the HOA and since they don't pay the water bill, they don't care how it gets used!

This is why I'm a fan of government regulations in favor of conserving natural resources!  There should be a law that states that all buildings must be individually metered so each building owner can see and pay the price for their own consumption. Only then will they be able to take the steps necessary to reduce it!  Of course rich people could still waste natural resources, but at least they couldn't claim ignorance while they were doing it.

But enough of my ranting.  What do you think about government regulations in favor of conserving natural resources?  Where do we draw the line?

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"I am against government regulations where they aren’t needed as they increase our taxation and also increase the need for oversight thus increasing our taxation even more." I always have to chuckle about comments like this - especially when it comes to publically consumed resources, like electricity or water. Take a few minutes and let this sink in: In areas that have the tightest government regulation and control, we have the lowest cost of energy and water. IE. The Pacific NW's publically owned utilities, and publically run grid, have the lowest energy cost in the nation. The same goes for the TVA operated areas in the mid-west. We're also the areas that put the most emphasis on conservation and efficiency. That is a fact. In areas that have the least government regulation and control, rates skyrocket and companies reap huge profits on the backs of rate-payers. They use the specter of government regulation or conservation as an excuse to raise rates. Their business model relies on people consuming more, so they can build more infrastructure to support it. Heck, look at the destruction that came to the California energy market when they deregulated. Corporate criminals like Enron found loopholes to game the market and steal billions from people - all the while blaming blackouts on conservation. As for the watering problem at hand, I think you should make this a little experiment. Try Guy's suggestion and talk to the person doing the over-watering. Tell us how it goes, and the result. If they're like any of the similar neighbors I used to have, they'll tell you to take a hike and that it's their god given right to waste everyone else's water.
Steve, sadly I would expect that outcome as well. It'd be a difficult thing to bring up, though, nobody likes to hear "they're doing it wrong" and when there is no upside (reduced cost) to them it becomes a matter of philosophy... and then you've probably lost. :)
As an example, a very good friend has a home filled with dual-lamp flood lights - outside, in stairways, basement, etc. Probably at least 100W bulbs x2 in each fixture. And no light sensors, so they go on every time you walk by, day or night. Believe it or not, he's on an "energy efficiency" working group with me for a community project. I still haven't brought it up with him, even though the solutions (cfl bulbs, perhaps, or light sensors) are obvious and would pay for themselves. It's just not that easy to do.
ckmapawatt's picture
Thanks for everyone's comments. I think a lot of you are overestimating my appetite for regulation. Surely you aren't opposed to building codes? How is including the necessity for a building to have a water meter different than the necessity to have a certain type of insulation? Regarding communicating with my neighbor, I thought of that, but based on the fact that she continues to wake myself and other neighbors up at 3 AM on weeknights after I've repeatedly walked outside and kindly asked her to keep it down...I don't think she takes a hint too well. It's not that I don't want to ask her, it's that I have a feeling that if I do ask her, she won't listen to my advice, and it will only make the issue worse. If the government provides a service (i.e. clean water) then it is their responsibility to ensure it is managed properly. By not supporting a meter mandate, your effectively encouraging government to inefficiently manage a resource.
It seems to me that we have much the same sort of problems here in New Zealand, although, I don't know of a group water reticulation such as that. However, you are right, when people don't have to pay they gorge ravenously on the generosity of others. I can't stand these people..!! What I think I would be doing is calling a meeting with others over the matter, but also include her so that she knows it is about her, at this stage she has the cahnce to make a change. Then, if she is too arrogant to pull her horns in, I would go to the trouble of paying for her to be cut out of the circle so that she has her own meter; then I would bill her for it. If it proves too difficult to get the money out of her, then at least, you have her out of the circle. This may require a mandate through the council but, if the need of a mandate prove too difficult, I would drive it home to them that they, the authority, are failing you as ratepayers. (Even threaten to stop paying rates as a group if it comes to that.)
Hey Chris, I used to live in a town house community with one water meter and no one paid individual bills. Worse yet, we never even knew how much our community was using until they put up a sign during a drought saying "We use a lot of water, please conserve." Pretty helpful, eh? That said, I don't quite follow you on this line: "The free market can’t always correctly manage natural resources." What exactly is free market about everyone getting water for free and not paying for it? I think you're actually advocating for a market system, rather than against it. Love the suggestions from David and Guy - we've lost a lot of our interpersonal skills over the years, and rely on government and police to make people behave the way we think they should. I barely even know my neighbors, sadly, but I'd like to think that friendship could be more powerful than threats.
Thanks Daniel. Friendship is always more powerful than threats.
Dear Chris I am against government regulations where they aren't needed as they increase our taxation and also increase the need for oversight thus increasing our taxation even more. As you are in a complex, the complex's committee must get together and make a rule that everyone can agree to. You all need to get together to be responsible for your usage. Blaming "the government" is not the right approach here. And maybe when you are reviewing your local requirements, you might decide it is worthwhile installing meters in all the houses inside your complex. Regards David
This is the kind of situation that gives you an opportunity to build community. If you were to very politely and carefully educate the person responsible then they might actually benefit from your knowledge and experience. This could be a learning opportunity for you in how to address a situation like this with kindness and tact as well. Your turning this into a governance issue is wrong headed in my opinion. Building community is what our world needs most, and moving toward wholistic thinking can only benefit the world at large.

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