Thursday, April 2, 2009

Greensboro water rates skyrocket as water use declines

A decade of propaganda about an alleged need for more water in Greensboro has effectively prepared citizens to accept huge rate hikes without complaining. At a time when nobody is getting raises and people are losing their jobs Greensboro hiked its water price 9% on January 1st. Rates will increase annually about the same amount for many years to come. There is no outrage. The customers are content because of what they were told.
= The city’s recent move from quarterly to monthly billing was a clever way to conceal the huge increase in the cost of water. Residents once received quarterly bills but after the 9% hike a 3-month bill would have been hard on anyone’s budget. Monthly billing makes a big water bill seem smaller.
= Greensboro citizens were fooled into thinking that Randleman Dam was essential. Now it is time to pay up for having been fooled. Greensboro purchased 53% of Randleman Lake and it has no need for all that water. A few months ago City Council made a $33 million payment to the Randleman water treatment plant without any discussion or fanfare. The dam scammers are celebrating because nobody but me is challenging them. There has not been a water customer revolt and their scam is still working—so far. But just wait. = The true cost won’t be known until the fat lady floats on Randleman Lake. Greensboro must purchase Randleman water DAILY and the price it will pay has yet to be established. Won’t it be embarrassing if Randleman water ends up costing more than what Greensboro pays for Burlington’s water? = Water Director Allan Williams claims Randleman water will be “much cheaper” than Burlington water. How does he know that? Randleman’s price won’t be established until 2011? And if you were Burlington with water to spare even during a drought, wouldn’t you discount your water to compete with Randleman? Greensboro could be in for a (another) big surprise. = FACT: Back in the mid 1990’s when Greensboro was "justi-lying" the Randleman Dam its water rate was the lowest in North Carolina! = FACT: Greensboro’s price tag in the mid 1990’s was a whopping 43% lower than what other NC cities charged for water. Think of it—Greensboro was supposedly “running out of water” and yet it offered the cheapest water in North Carolina. Can you guess why? = On top of that, in the 90’s when the dam scam began Greensboro was giving huge discounts on water—called a “declining block rate”—to large water users. And on top of that, Greensboro’s water for lawn irrigation was being sold below cost. That encouraged the installation of many hundreds of sprinkler systems that would drain the reservoirs. The incentive to water your lawn made Greensboro the SPRINKLER CAPITAL OF NORTH AMERICA! And—by design—the water treatment plants and the reservoirs could not keep up with all of the lawn sprinklers. = Selling irrigation water below cost meant that residential water customers—even apartment dwellers—were subsidizing lawn watering through their water bills. Greensboro’s poor people were actually financing lawn watering in places like Irving Park and Brassfield. Black Council members Earl Jones and Yvonne Johnson had no clue that poor people in their districts who didn’t own a single blade of grass were paying to make the grass greener on the other side of the city. = Now according to the laws of economics, Greensboro’s water pricing was insane. It said it was “running out” of water yet its low prices were an incentive to use lots of water. That’s how the water works got all its projects approved! Using cheap pricing Greensboro encouraged water use which discouraged conservation. = Give-a-way pricing was insane—unless Greensboro was up to something. It was. That’s exactly how Greensboro sold down its reservoirs every summer to justify the Randleman Dam and get every water project it wanted approved. = Cheap irrigation water almost doubled Greensboro’s daily water use during peak demand. Over 50 million gallons a day (mgd) were pumped during heat waves back then. It made the reservoirs look too small and it made the water treatment plants appear inadequate. It was a scam. And once the reservoirs were intentionally dropped to dangerous levels, then Greensboro could mandate that lawn watering be STOPPED. That’s how citizens and the media were tricked into supporting a new reservoir in Randleman. = The peak demand problem cause by lawn watering has now been rectified. You don’t see 50mgd pumped any longer. Know why? ANSWER: It costs too much $$$! = It costs a fortune now to water your Greensboro lawn! Fewer and fewer people are doing it. This could have been achieved 10 years ago, but then the Randleman Dam project would never have been "justi-lied." Low reservoirs were the visual stimulus that got everyone on board with the Randleman Dam. The dam scammers came up with a “Low reservoir stimulus package” and it worked! = Water Conservation is like Fire Prevention Fire prevention and water conservation are quite similar in nature. They both offer education, tools and methods that reduce frequency. Do you think a Fire Chief would set fires to justify his department’s expansion? NOPE! That is arson. He could go to jail for life (And if the Fire Chief was female, she might even go to jail). = Unfortunately there is no law preventing a Water Chief from “burning down” his water works to get a new one. That’s what happened, and that’s how Greensboro got away with the approval of the Randleman Dam. Greensboro caused extreme lawn watering to demonstrate that its water treatment plants were underpowered and its reservoirs were too small. I was there. I saw it being done. Two Utility Directors managed a nearly perfect scam. Both knew I had caught on. I was fired for my failure to participate in a scam. = In 1996 Greensboro spent $10 million just to add horsepower to its water treatment plant to meet a specific demand caused by excessive lawn watering. That was a complete waste of taxpayer money, but that’s exactly how you get the public and the media to support big projects. You create a "need" even if it is false. = Let’s say you want a new bridge for your city. All you need to do is create horrible traffic jams on the current bridge and pretty soon an angry public will support your new bridge. Nobody will suspect that the traffic jams are deliberate and being caused by the bridge proponents! = Investigative reporting used to keep government honest about big infrastructure improvements. Greensboro is no longer scrutinized by investigative reporters because there are none. Good thing we have blogger-reporters! = FACT: It was only AFTER THE APPROVAL of the Randleman Dam that Greensboro began doing all the prudent things it should have been doing to protect its water supply—like raising irrigation water prices, like raising residential water prices, like replacing a “declining block rate” with an “increasing block rate,” and like connecting to Burlington which has plenty of water to spare. = FACT: AFTER the approval of the Dam project, Greensboro eliminated its EPA award-winning water conservation program. It was no longer needed. = The City of Greensboro’s dirty little secret--Declining water use since 1995! Water use in 2008 was down 3 million gallons a day from the previous year! In fact, it is 4 million gallons a day down from 1995 when the Dam justification began. How can this be? = And the water rate went up 9% January first. And the water rate will increase annually now from 5% to 7%. = And as Greensboro's water rate skyrockets, residents will continue to use less water. In turn, Greensboro will have to charge more for it to maintain operations. FACT: Greensboro is selling much less water these past several years! Water rates are increasing to make up for the loss in water sales!....and increasing to pay for 53% of Randleman Lake projects. = FACT: Greensboro may have needed an egg every now and then and Burlington was happy to provide it. But the Randleman purchase will be like a 200-car freight train of eggs arriving daily. What will Greensboro ever do with all the eggs it has purchased? And if Greensboro does not accept all those daily egg deliveries will it still have to pay for them?
= Let's have a look at what happened to water rates in Colorado... =
Colorado cities drastically reduce water use
by Jerd Smith, Rocky Mountain News, October 12, 2007 at midnight
(My comments are in RED TEXT--MB)
Five years after an epic drought gripped Colorado, its largest cities have dramatically reduced water use, aided by multimillion dollar conservation campaigns and soaring water rates. (Soaring water rates will reduce water use without any conservation programs—MB)
Colorado Springs gets the "A" for effort, slashing home water use the most — 23 percent — since 2001, according to a survey by the Rocky Mountain News. Denver and Fort Collins have also made strides, dropping residential use by 18 percent. Most of the cities have achieved savings, particularly in recent years, using voluntary rather than mandatory water restrictions. (You don’t need restrictions if you charge a fortune for water!—MB)
Water at a price Victories at the tap, however, haven't come without sticker shock. Aurora, for example, has raised rates for basic use 88 percent since 2001, with the first 1,000 gallons of water costing $3.60 cents, the highest price among the 10 cities surveyed. (If Greensboro raised its rates in the 90’s and connected to Burlington it would have never needed Randleman Dam.—MB)
Fort Collins has bumped basic water rates 50 percent since 2001 and now charges $1.97 for the first 1,000 gallons used, up from $1.31.
But it is high volume users who've been soaked by rate hikes, with Aurorans paying $10.75 per thousand for high-volume use. That's a whopping 463 percent increase since 2001. "Have we gone too far? I don't think so," said Kevin Reidy, Aurora's manager of water conservation. "We really don't want anyone using in those high- priced tiers. That's the message here ... Water is not cheap. It's not free and it's not as plentiful as it used to be."
Aurora resident Larry Pomarico heard that loud and clear when his water bills soared to $800 in June and July and then hit $1,042 in August. "It was pretty much the summer when I was making a second mortgage payment," Pomarico said. (I would guess that Mr. Pomarico water’s his lawn daily.—MB)
Learning to live on less On the Western Slope, John Rosenfeld, a Minturn landscape contractor, is also learning to live on less H20 and is teaching his clients to do so. He used rebates to purchase a new clothes washer that uses just 13 gallons per load. His old machine used 40. His dishwasher is a low water-use machine. (I had a proposal to offer rebates to Greensboro water customers who purchased Neptune washing machines. It was rejected. Now with escalating water rates customers will purchase these new washing machines on their own. Water conservation incentives are no longer needed when the price of water gets high enough. That's why water use will continue to decline in Greensboro. —MB)
"Originally, the drought caused a lot of whining," Rosenfeld said. "But in the end it really helped create a lot of resource awareness." (The drought became the perfect new justification for the dam scammers. Originally Randleman Lake was supposed to attract northern manufacturers to Greensboro. Ha! They went to Asia instead! So the "revised" purpose for Randleman Lake is "drought protection."--MB)
Not out of the woods "Our reservoirs would not be as full right now without our customers efforts," said Denver's Fisher. "We're 93 percent full right now. Normally we're at 88. Part of it's snowpack, but certainly it's our customers' hard work." (It is not the customers' hard work, it is the customers' empty wallets that cause less water to be used.--MB)
While the drought has provided a crash course in using less, it has also triggered a drive to build massive new water pipelines to tap high country supplies. (Well lookie here, Colorado's water use is going DOWN and at the same time it is expanding the water works with new pipelines. Sound familiar?--MB)
But lawmakers and others want to know if Colorado can make existing supplies stretch farther, as southern California has done. (Of course it can, and Greensboro's reservoirs would grow too if only Greensboro did not eliminate its award-winning conservation program! But Greensboro is out to SELL all the water it can. That's why it no longer has a water conservation program.--MB)
In 1990, for instance, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the nation's largest water utility, used 2.5 million acre feet of water, according to Bob Muir, director of public affairs. Last year, despite 4 million new residents, the utility used just 2.4 million acre feet. (Again, when you jack up the rates, people use much less water.—MB)
"We're using the same amount of water today as we did in 1990," Muir said. "We got a lot more efficient." (Greensboro is using the same amount of water today that it did in 1993! Have you ever seen this fact in any Greensboro newspaper?--MB)
What Colorado confirms...
When the price of water goes up people will eventually stop wasting it. When the price increases enough it becomes cost-effective to repair leaks and install efficient plumbing hardware.
Years ago in Greensboro a leaking toilet or a dripping faucet would hardly show up in your water bill. Today these leaks can bump you up into the next block rate and really sock it to your wallet.
Randleman Lake was created to help Greensboro attract northern manufacturers looking to relocate. Taxpayers and water rate payers were tricked into supporting Randleman Dam thinking that Greensboro was "running out of water." It wasn't.
Now it is time to pay up on a project that was never needed.
Randleman Dam is Greensboro's biggest scam. Tell somebody about it. Tell them to Google just two words--dam scam.
Please feel free to post your comments.
Below is a history of Greensboro water use since 1995. You won't find this info elsewhere. You can click on thie CHART to view it FULL SIZE.

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