Selectmen consider tiered system for summer water use

May 7, 2019

MARION —  At a May 7 Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman John Waterman brought up an issue that he believes might save the town and its residents some money on watering. 

Waterman attended a meeting that was also attended by Rochester, Fairhaven and Mattapoisett, and there learned that water restriction actually restricts town revenue, since more water usage helps to keep rates down. 

A bylaw under consideration for Town Meeting would give Selectmen the authorization to prohibit watering. But Waterman suggested that letting the water flow might be more effective for town revenues. “Price is the best way to ration something,” Waterman asserted. Since the town already has a tiered price system for water, he proposed reducing the number of days where there is a watering ban and instead just letting residents choose whether they wanted to spend the money necessary to water in the summer.

He asked whether the tiered system is billed yearly or quarterly. Town Administrator Paul Dawson responded that it is billed on a quarterly basis. 

Water use is currently not limited by the Department of Environmental Protection, but will be. However, Selectmen resolved not to worry about that until it came about. 

Waterman stressed that the Selectmen did not need to reach a decision that night, he only intended to start a discussion.

Dawson pointed out that any potential changes “won’t affect anyone this summer, since bylaws can only be changed in the fall.” 

Selectmen also said that when residents water more, the sewer enterprise fund does better. 

Chair of the Board of Selectmen Norm Hills added that if the state declares a water emergency town residents would have to stop watering. But Selectmen could make fewer prohibitions on water use. 

Selectmen resolved to discuss the issue further before taking any action, but Waterman suggested that the town could lean on the tiered system it on a trial basis this summer to see what happens