View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Denver Water and the Drought 

Denver Water has voted to allow a third watering day each week, under the same 15-minute-per-zone restrictions as before. Since people have been conserving, they're probably just trying to raise more revenue.

Honestly, while my new grass seed will like it, I'm not certain it's the right thing to do. Given the fragility of the water supply, keeping restrictions in place might spur people to do the two things we need to: build more reservoirs and plant less-thirsty plants and trees. One is called saving. The other is called spending less. Together, they'll let the economy grow.

It's an arid climate people, you all knew that when you moved out here. What, you didn't notice that you could see Pike's Peak from Kansas? People come out here, and they plant Kentucky blue grass and aspen and deciduous trees that sweat so much they change the humidity readings at the weather stations. Then the wonder why there's no water. We xeriscaped a portion of our front yard that wasn't growing anything but weeds, and any new seed we put down is fescue.

We don't need restrictions on the number of taps. That'll just destroy a local economy that's getting back on its feet. I can't think of a faster way to keep people out than by artificially inflating house prices in an environment of rising interest rates.

We need two things: a price structure that encourages conservation, and one where the revenue structure matches the cost structure. Right now, Denver Water has about 90% fixed cost and 10% variable cost. But their fee structure guarantees 10% and lets 90% float. When people conserve, there's not enough money for maintenance or new projects. Make me pay more up front, and zap me with an escalating penalty for flooding the yard. Then we'll see how quickly those new dams get built.

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