WORCESTER (CBS) — If you are searching for an upside to all this rain, you might think, “At least my lawn is green, and I won’t have a huge water bill.”
Experts tell us this may be true, in the short run. Lawn irrigation can cause water usage to skyrocket during the summer which can mean some pretty steep bills, particularly if you are in a community with a tiered payment system that increases the rate once you hit a certain level of usage. Without the sprinklers, bills will be lower.READ MORE: Volunteers Gather To Clean Up Trash In Boston's Muddy River
Here’s the problem: Many communities rely on the revenue generated from homeowners watering their lawns during the hot summer months. No sprinklers mean a lot less money coming in to run the water department.
“We still have that fixed cost,” explained Worcester’s Water and Sewer Director Philip Guerin. “The only way we can pay the fixed cost is to increase the rate.”
This can also happen during extreme droughts. If communities are forced to limit lawn watering to conserve water, the water departments take a revenue hit then as well. “It’s a tough sell on the customers because you tell them, ‘you need to conserve’, so they do and then you increase their rate,” Guerin added.READ MORE: Attleboro Animal Shelter Says Driver Deliberately Ran Over 5 Geese On Route 123
The bigger issue here is that for many communities, ratepayers provide almost all the operating budgets. The federal government pulled the plug on subsidies for water infrastructure several decades ago. “There’s no more grant money, at all,” Guerin said.
It’s not just the day-to-day expenses, a lot of communities are facing crumbling infrastructure.
“We all have the same dilemma of pipes in the ground that were put in during the Civil War that are failing,” Guerin said.MORE NEWS: Large Search Underway Near Newburyport Boat Club For Missing Man Kevin Mahoney
Those upgrades are expensive and lead to significant debt loads, and once again the revenue generated from homeowners and business is the only way to pay for it.