Langley must reform water code | GUEST VIEWPOINT
March 21, 2013 · Updated 2:15 PM
By DANE DAVIS
As a recent graduate just starting his career, I am proud to say that I started it here in Langley.
Since moving to the island last June, I’ve found the village and Whidbey Island to be welcoming, peaceful, and pleasant, to say nothing of the natural beauty of the area. Minor political drama aside, Langley as a village simply works.
Except in one important area: water rates. When I first moved here, I was conscientious of my water use. Mindfulness of wasteful expenditures such as leaving the lights on or using too much water would add up into large bills. For a young man such as myself, every penny saved counts.
Upon receiving my first water bill, I was shocked. I consumed a mere few hundred gallons of water, but was forced to pay nearly $150 for 8,000 gallons of water that I would never use. My efforts at conservation were for naught. There’s no way that a single person such as myself could use 8,000 gallons of water over a two month period. The bill was so high that it nearly added up to all of my other utilities combined.
As an economist, I can speak with certainty and confidence of two harmful effects of this policy. Two of the most vulnerable groups in our community, the young and the elderly, are suffering due to the current water rate scheme.
The elderly, on average living in smaller homes and by themselves, face ever increasing bills and slowly rising paychecks. On top of their fiscal straits, the village of Langley expects them to subsidize larger families and wealthier individuals. By forcing them to pay for 8,000 gallons that most of them will never use, Langley is in effect subsidizing larger families at the expense of those who cannot afford it.
The young are also at a disadvantage. If Langley is to continue to prosper into this coming century, it needs to attract a constant stream of high quality, hard working, and inventive young people. The current water rates are a huge, “not welcome” sign to them. Like the elderly, the young on average live in smaller housing units, have smaller families, and thus consume less water. However, the current pricing scheme forces them to pay for everyone else.
To illustrate this, imagine a large group goes out to a restaurant. While everyone orders modest meals, one man buys the most expensive steak, the priciest bottle of wine, and two courses of dessert. When the bill comes, this glutton insists of splitting the check for the table as a whole, instead of paying for what he consumed. This is obviously both mad and unfair, and the same lesson applies to Langley’s water rates.
I recognize the fact that there needs to be some form of minimum pricing in order to account for the capital costs of maintaining a working water system. That said the current system is unfair. A simpler, more effective, and more fair pricing systems could easily be formulated. As a village, we must no longer expect our past and future to foot the bill.
Dane Davis is a recent graduate working at the management consulting/research firm CRU, located above the Yoga studio in Langley.