Improved Condition of Water Works
The striking paper which leads this week’s issue of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING presents in a practical form the fact that the general condition of the water works of the country is improved as compared with years preceding, back to 1918. Mr. Metcalf has gone into the matter with his usual thoroughness and his conclusions are based upon facts which he has gleaned through considerable effort on his part.
A significant conclusion, however, which he deduces from the records he has compiled is that the water rates will have to be still further increased if desirable standards of service are to be maintained, assuming that the same ratio applies throughout the country as the water works replying to Mr. Metcalf have reported. It seems probable, says Mr. Metcalf, that the total loss to the water works has approximated $50,000,000 on a prewar normal basis. If proper recognition be given to the higher plane of war and post-war conditions the amount below a fair return will probably be from four to six times as great, or say roughly $250,000,000. In other words, he argues the general loss in purchasing power of money or increase in costs would probably justify an average increase in net revenues over the pre-war basis of at least thirty per cent, and probably as great as forty per cent, or even more in some cases. Mr. Metcalf calls attention to the fact that the difference in cost to the average family between good and inadequate services is probably considerably less than spent by such a family in chewing gum. It is encouraging to note that in spite of the difficulties involved some at least of the utilities commissions are beginning to sense the inherent dangers of the situation and the necessity tor a more liberal treatment of the water works.
Mr. Metcalf’s conclusions are in a direct line with the arguments that FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING has put forward from time to time as regards necessity for adequate rates for both privately and publicly owned water works. It is a mistaken policy to conclude that such utilities can be properly run without the necessary means to do it. This is a matter of plain common sense and it is not hard to see the necessity for it. The public, as a rule, will recognize this fact if the matter is properly and intelligently presented to them by the water department or company. This can be done in many ways and many agencies can be utilized for the purpose, including the public press, chambers of commerce, Rotary clubs and many other similar bodies. Courtesy on the part of employees creating a favorable public impression is another very important element in bringing about the necessary good feeling of the public toward the utility. All of this will work toward the ultimate end of producing adequate returns which will place the utility on a sound basis.