While these solutions are expensive, and are certainly years away, the City of Lubbock should begin studies now, to ensure a safe and secure water supply for the future. In addition, the city should look at tougher restrictions for new building and landscaping as alternate ways to save water and ensure a consistent water supply for the future. Basing a block billing system on water usage in the winter is simply a route to disaster. The block billing system does not encourage water savings, as the current water emergency clearly indicates. It is not enough to ensure residents have enough water, it is based on faulty calculations, and it has already been overtaken by Stage Four emergency restrictions. It is too little too late and other ways of conserving water must be addressed. It took three years to implement this system, over much controversy and dissent. It seems now that the council must act quickly to find other ways to ensure Lubbock enjoys adequate water supplies for years to come. Conservation is only one way to ensure this occurs - other methods must be employed for the long-term future of the community.
Other communities that utilize block billing have seen varied success rates with their practices. For example, Dover, Delaware utilized a "decline block billing" structure until 2005, and then replaced this structure with a consumption-based, meter reading system (Revenue manual, 2006, p. 67). Today, the city bases their water rates and consumption on a complex set of estimates, including consumption, expected rainfall estimates, reserves available, and several other variables, some of which are calculated as much as five years in advance (Revenue manual, 2006, p. 67).
Another city utilizing block billing water charges is Santa Fe New Mexico, who implemented them around the same time Lubbock implemented their own block billing fees. However, when Santa Fe implemented their block billing, they also enacted strict water conservation guidelines, and removed water conservation restrictions, such as Stage Two Water Emergency Restrictions (Comprehensive water conservation requirements, 2007, p. 1). Thus, Santa Fe streamlined their conservation systems while implementing a block billing system, while Lubbock has created more bureaucracy with their system, as the recent Stage Four alert indicates.
In addition, the City of Santa Fe implemented very strict water conservation guidelines that include landscaping and watering restrictions, restrictions on business and home waste, and fines for violators. The Lubbock regulations do not include such guidelines, which means that landscaping and other uses are still not monitored, and residents can still plant large grass lawns, etc., which help waste water. The Santa Fe restrictions are indeed strict, but they give residents specific guidelines to follow to help them conserve in the areas where water is usually wasted the most, while Lubbock is simply relying on block billing and extensive water emergency alerts. Long-term, this is not the way to manage water or water conservation effectively.
In conclusion, block billing in Lubbock is based on faulty calculations, and will result in home and business owners paying more than their fair share of water costs, even if they do attempt to conserve their water usage. Water conservation is a good idea, and crucial to the long-term survival of the city and residents' lifestyle. As the current water emergency indicates, the block billing is based on calculations that do not work, and residents are already on stricter water restrictions, even though block billing just took place in April. To really gain the support of residents, the City Council should reconsider block billing, and the time period used to set the rates, as it is faulty, unfair, and results in water mismanagement rather than conservation.
Blackburn, E. (2007). New water rates discourage use of high volume. Retrieved from the Lubbock Avalanche Journal Web site: http://lubbockonline.com/stories/022307/loc_022307069.shtml22 June 2007.
2007). Comprehensive water conservation requirements. Retrieved from the City of Santa Fe Web site: http://santafenm.gov/waterwise/newcompwaterconservreq.pdf22 June 2007.
Editors. (2007). Water rate information calculation method. Retrieved from the Lubbock Power and Light Web site: http://www.lpandl.com/waterrates.htm22 June 2007.
Editors. (2007.) Desalination. Retrieved from the General Electric Web site: http://www.gewater.com/equipment/membranehousing/desal.jsp22 June 2007.
2006). Revenue manual. Retrieved from the City of Dover Web site: http://www.cityofdover.com/media/documents/budget-Revenue_Manual_03-15-05.pdf22 June 2007.