NOTE: there is a council meeting to discuss rates this Tuesday August 4th, 9 am – please show up or write to them if this matters to you.

I have graphed out the new proposed water rates so we can actually see how they compare.  No big changes coming – residents still pay more at the same volume of usage. The big hotels and the processing plants still get the cheapest rates – both at high and low volume of usage.  Of the high-volume rates, the school and the hospital pay significantly more than the for-profit businesses!

As a trained scientist, I am well aware how people can use statistics to say things that are not exactly untrue, but that are misleading.  So I am going to use this graph to clarify some things that are commonly mis-stated.

Proposed new water rates (summer rates shown)

Proposed new water rates (summer rates shown)

1.  That businesses pay more for their water than residents. This is only true at the high-usage volumes that the large, commercial, for-profit operations require.  (And we all know that it is those high volumes of use that put pressure on our system).  At low and moderate volumes, residents pay significantly more.  Look at the graph.

2.  That businesses actually subsidize our water system. This depends upon how you state it – if you look at the graphs that Edward sent me, that I posted on the 28th, showing usage vs. payment per class, then yes – the businesses do pay slightly more per total volume.  But this is only because a few of them use so much water that they get kicked up to the higher usage rate.  At low to moderate volumes we actually subsidize them (residents never get up to those high volumes).

Some suggestions that I have are:

1.  That residents (i.e. local people who live and work here) should never, ever, pay a higher water rate than any business (i.e. commercial ventures that exist for profit). This is a very expensive town to live in; most locals work in relatively low-paying and seasonal work; and in the past few years we have had many good local families leave town because they cannot afford to stay here.  Locals should not be subsidizing commercial operations.

Basically, what this means is that, on the graph, the residents’ rate (red line) should always be below all of the other lines.

2.  That the stepping nature of the rate needs to be reviewed. I think it is good that the rates step up as volume increases – but even the highest-volume users get a lot of cheap water before their rates kick up.  I think that we should look at moving rates up, such that once a user crosses a rate threshold, all of their water is charged at that rate – so that low-volume users get cheap water, but high-volume users always pay higher rates for all of their water.

3.  That the way of calculating hotel rates absolutely must be changed! Some of the largest businesses, and biggest water consumers, in the village are the big resorts.  But since their rate is divided by the amount of rooms that they have, the biggest hotels actually pay the cheapest rate per volume.  No other business has its rate divided by the number of clients it services.  Look at the restaurant rate (dark green line) – a large and busy food-serving  business would pay a much higher rate than a small one because it uses more water.  But a large and busy accommodation business gets its rate divided by its number of rooms – so the bigger the business is, the lower its rate is!  The logic behind this just baffles me.

(By the way, the turquoise line on the graph is the per-room water rate as stated in the table, i.e. the rate for a “one-room” hotel – something that does not really exist… except for, see point #4).

4.  All commercial operations should be charged commercial rates.
This means we need to get a handle on how many B&Bs and vacation rental units are actually operating out there: they are tourist accommodation, not homes. Having lived above a VR for a year, I’ve seen first-hand how much water tourists use over summer.  After all the meetings we have had about VR’s, not much has been done about this issue.  The illegal ones must be shut down (which will help solve our housing crisis, too) and the legal ones should be charged commercial rates.

The way our water rates are displayed (both current rates and proposed rates) – in tables where the columns have nothing to do with the actual usage volumes – is completely unhelpful.  There is no way to compare the rates between usage classes – and without doing that, how can our council decide what rates are fair?

I know my hand-drawn graph is not very beautiful – but I really hope that it will be of use to everyone, and especially to our decision-makers: so they can see in a simple way how the rates actually do compare, and come up with a formula so that no resident pays a higher water rate than any business.  Ever.