Asheville City Council candidate Cecil Bothwell has advanced a revised plan for Asheville water rates aimed at encouraging conservation.
“The biggest problem with Asheville’s current water rate structure is that it encourages more use,” Bothwell said. “We need to put water consumers in stronger control of their bills and discourage over-consumption.”
Bothwell’s proposal includes a move that seems counter-intuitive: he wants to give away water in order to convince people to use less.
“I propose that we give every household on the Asheville water system 100 gallons of water per day, absolutely free,” Bothwell explained. “Households that use less than 100 gallons would get a tradeable credit. That is, if you use less water you can sell your free water to a bigger user. This system would be no more complicated than the computer systems we use to track cell phone minutes or frequent flier miles, and it will create a big demand for water conservation technologies.”
Bothwell points out that conserving water is not a “turn-on-a-dime” project, and that when cities face extreme shortages as they did last year in Atlanta, Raleigh, Durham and elsewhere across the southeast, stop-gap measures tend to be difficult to implement. “If we incentivize conservation today, water customers will be able to make their own choices on best practices, local contractors will be able to create and offer options and we will be far better prepared for both population growth and future droughts,” Bothwell said.
Current household use on the Asheville system averages 150 gallons per day, according to the Asheville Water Authority.
Such a rate structure is legal under the Sullivan Acts which regulate Asheville’s sale of water to non-city users. Bothwell’s proposal would require an increase in high-use rates since state law requires that the system be revenue-neutral. While this proposal addresses residential use, he is pulling together ideas to incentivize commercial conservation as well.
Bothwell also notes that fixing the leaks in the system remains a high priority and that he both supports the ongoing repair project and will seek to engage county participation in infrastructure repairs.