Water Metering: Letter to the Capital Times

This is a response to a Capital Times article, Hold Your Water (Vol  34  No 11) which argued for compulsory water metering as a conservation measure. Unfortunately the article is not online.

Your article Hold Your Water argued for water metering as a conservation measure. However, domestic water metering is symptomatic of an approach to conservation that shifts the costs of bad infrastructure onto consumers.

Like any user-pays system, water metering hits those on lower incomes hardest. There are alternatives. Fitting houses with rainwater tanks can conserve up to 40% of potable water, without significantly limiting real consumption. If you add greywater recycling and drycomposting toilets to the equation, households can conserve up to 70%. However, these measures don’t have the ongoing financial benefits that meters do.

The article argues that water metering does not constitute privatisation. We at the Workers Party and the Wellington Residents Coalition have never claimed this. However, it does constitute corporatisation, where public services are managed for profit by corporate-style entities – in this case, Capacity.

Capacity is a Council-Controlled Trading Organisation (CCTO), which manages water for Wellington, Hutt and Upper Hutt Cities. As a CCTO, Capacity is run for profit. Capacity could have its range of activities increased to include water-metering in Wellington City by altering its Statement of Intent, something that is tucked away in the back of the Council’s Draft Annual Plan. There’s a financial incentive for Capacity to install water meters rather than fairer, less profitable forms of conservation.

Capacity is affiliated with New Zealand Water and Wastes Association, and the CEO is on the board. It comes as no surprise that their chief executive Murray Gibb would write an article in support of metering. In a political climate aimed at maximising profit, NGOs must go corporate.

This is nothing new from a council that cuts costs for its friends while burdening its electorate. While residential rates have consistently gone up, they’ve cut business rates, supported large-scale development and done little to address sustainability. 20% of potable water in Wellington is wasted on council leakage. Penalising consumption is no substitute for developing fair, sustainable infrastructure.

Invest in tanks, not meters.

The Wellington Residents’ Coalition will hold a campaign planning session on Saturday the 1st of Feb at Newtown Community Centre. We hope to see you there.

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