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Water meters are a necessity

Water is vital. Water is life. Like air, an argument is made that no one should own water. To deny it for want of its price is to take a person's life. Yet, wars are fought over the stuff, and people are killed or taken to court for having it, taking it, or wanting it.

We have a tenth of the whole planet's supply along the wet edge of our county. It is ours, yet no one actually owns it. This condition does not exist in the American West.

Financier T. Boone Pickens is in the process of buying up water rights to hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water rights in the Ogallala Aquifer, to water parched regions of Texas - for millions in profit, of course. What this means in practical terms is that if you poke a well into that aquifer without paying Mr. Pickens first, you are stealing his water.

In nearly every western state there is a complex body of law regulating who has access to water and who does not. You may have a stream running through your land, but someone else will have the water rights to that water, and you can not take any of it for your own use without paying the owner of the water rights.

In some states you cannot even harvest the rain. A rain barrel in your back yard will put you in jail. The law in Colorado was recently liberalized, so that you can now have a rain barrel, but that little privilege is regulated and you have to toe the line if you want to get your rainwater. Utah and Washington state are less liberal. Bechtel, an American company, owns the water rights including all rainwater rights in Bolivia.

Where am I going with this? You guessed it. We have a new water system, and may have to install water meters. Our city is in the business of getting the water from the lake, treating it to meet health standards, storing the water and delivering the water to our homes and businesses.

The city also collects the used water and treats it before returning it to the lake. All of this costs money. The water itself is still free. Without meters, the city can only guess how much each household uses, and so has some basic categories for pricing the stuff. A household that uses little water pays the same price as another household that continually waters a big lawn, takes several long showers each day and maybe has leaky faucets. Is this fair?

The state has declared that some cities must meter their water. As of the writing of this letter, I do not know if our situation is completely settled. I also do not know if the homeowner must pay the cost of installing the meter. I believe our mayor may try to set up a program where the city will help pay part of the cost of installation.

My personal opinion is that water meters are a good idea. We as a city must get a good handle on just how much water we use, and where it is going. Those who use it as if it were endless must pay their fair share. Those who conserve water should get a lower bill. Leaks and waste will be easier to pinpoint and fix. When the time comes that other nations and investors want to buy Lake Superior, we have to be able to demonstrate that we are doing our part as good stewards of this resource. We will no longer be able to simply say, "No, it is ours - go away," and then continue with a cavalier attitude toward our lake.

From Thomas V. Koehler // Two Harbors