Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New Wrightsville Beach Tiered Water Rates Punish Hotel Owners

The Wrightsville Beach Board of Alderman has succumbed to the rhetoric of tiered water rates. The beach thrives off of tourism and the board of alderman took measures which will punish the life blood of the tourist industry, their local hotels.

According to reports, the rate for non-essential use was $2.40 per hundred cubic feet of water used. The board has now set up three tiers - $2.40 for up to 29,920; $3.60 for 29,920 to 74,800; and $5.00 for usage greater than 74,801.

Anyone using 74,801 gallons of water needs to be punished with higher pricing, right? They must be wasting water. Not necessarily. If you’re a hotel with 300, 400, or 500 guest a night, you’re going to use hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a month for essential water needs such as taking showers, flushing toilets, etc.

For example, the Blockade Runner has 150 rooms. Let’s say an average of 300 people stayed there per night. At 40 gallons of water per person per day (for reference the national average is 80 gal/day) X 300 people X 30 days is 360,000 gallons per month per month for essential water needs. That’s 280,000 gallons past the top tier of 74,801 gallons just for the essential needs of hotel guest.

It’s important to understand that these larger hotels: 1) Are not doing anything wrong just because they use a lot of water, and 2) Cannot conserve their way into these lower tiers. Even with conservation measures in place they’ll be paying higher second and third tier rates.

While supporters of the new tiered rate scheme point to it curbing non-essential use, it’s important to understand that the rate scheme proposed will unfairly and wrongfully punish business owners, especially the larger hotels, for their essential use.

The town leaders expressed concern over their utilities ability to meet increased demand. Ironically, their new rate structure does little to encourage most users to conserve water. Smaller households can waste tremendous amounts of water before ever getting to the higher second tier rates.

If the beach’s water supply was truly ever and issue, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is waiting in the wings with an over abundance of treatment capacity and could easily meet the demand.

The owners of the Blockade Runner have every reason to gripe. Tiered water rates are inherently discriminatory and are simply bad government. If the Wrightsville Beach Board of Alderman were serious about water conservation, they would use a uniform rate which would encourage all users to conserve water from the very first drop.

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