Proposed Change in Water Rates at Rochester.
At Rochester, N. Y., an effort is being made by some of the large commercial concerns to secure a reduction in water rates. In order to ascertain what effect such reduction would have on the fiscal administration of the water system official data is being scrutinized as a basis.
In the tax levy of the current year the estimated receipts for water rents were $460,000. and the estimated receipts from miscellaneous sources, mainly from water meters, was $70,000, making a total of $580,000 in gross receipts from the water system. From this total the following payments are made, namely: interest on bonds and notes, $266,000: maintenance, $211,412; sinking fund, $80,000. After these expenditures a balance of $22,581 was left for 1908. Should this balance be applied to the lowering of rates other than to betterments the inquiry is how far it would g°
No figures have been compiled since 1908 as to the effect of a reduction of rates on the net profits of the city, but Jan. 6, 1903, City Engineer Fisher made an extended report to Mayor Rodenbeck on this subject, when the chamber of commerce was urging a reduction on behalf of the manufacturers of the city. Similar figures will, of course, be compiled and brought down to date, if the agitation for a reduction assumes as serious a phase as it did six years ago. For approximate figuring, however, Mr. Fisher’s report contains much information that is of interest at the present time.
Mr. Fisher found from an examination of the minimum rates in thirty cities that the average rate was 7.62 per 1.000 gallons, against 14 cents in Rochester. The claim that water rates are higher in Rochester than elsewhere was therefore substantiated—the figures would probably show the same fact at this time.
Mr. Fisher assumed that if the item of water for a manufacturing establishment did not exceed $100 a year, any reduction would he too slight to he an inducement to a business man; he. therefore, fixed 100,000 cubic feet as the maximum on which a reduction might he reasonably asked, that is, he recommended that if any reduction he made, the consumer should at least spend $100 annually for water.
He found the following facts with reference to customers using 100,000 cubic feet or more of water per year. There were 102 commercial users, using 56.932,180 cubic feet, 111 manufacturing concerns using 58,159,150 cubic feet and twenty domestic consumers using 9,696,514 feet.
Using the above figures for present calctt lation, if the rate for water to manufacturers was reduced to 10 cents per 1,000 gallons for all water used over the amount of 100,000 cubic feet a year, the reduction in revenue for the same quantity would amount to about $14,000 annually. If the same rate was ex tended to the commercial users of water, the reduction to this class would amount to about $14,000; if extended to domestic users the reduction to this class would he about $2,800. This makes a reduction for all users of over 100,000 cubic feet of water per year about $80,800.
If the rate should he reduced to 8 cents a thousand gallons, instead of 10 cents, the reduction to manufacturers would he increased io $21,000; to commercial users, $21,000; to domestic users, $3,450. This makes a total reduction of $45,450 for an 8 cent rate.
In conclusion, it is estimated if there was a flat reduction to 10 cents in the rate of all consumers who have meters, it would amount to $64,000; if the reduction was made to 8 cents, it would amount to $96,000.
It is admitted that a reduction in rates would he followed by an increase in consumption, thereby offsetting in part the decrease in receipts. as estimated. The average consumption of water in Rochester for both the Hemlock and Holly systems is only 92 gallons per capita per day. This is much less than the average used by other cities. The average consumption of 48 large cities is 132.5 gallons a day per capita. A per capita of 100 gallons a day in Rochester, wth the population of the year 1909 would exhaust the entire supply of Hemlock Lake.
These figures show how the per capita con sumption is increased by the low rates:
Buffalo has a minimum rate of 2 cents and a per capita use of 282 gallons a day. Detroit has a minimum rate of 2 cents and a per capita use of 146 gallons. Chicago has a minimum rate of 3.9 cents and a per capita use of 190 gallons. Syracuse has a minimum rate of 5 cents and a per capita consumption of 102 gallons. Albany has a minimum rate of 6 cents and a oer-capita consumption of 191 gallons.
It is very evident, therefore, that Rochester’s tier capita consumption of only 92 gallons is due directly to the high charge of 14 cents a thousand gallons. Any reduction would al most inevitably he followed by a large increase in consumption and in a few months the entire capacity of Hemlock Lake might be exhausted. It Rochester had to-day as great a per capita consumption of water as Buffalo has, all the water in Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake combined would not be sufficient to supply the demand. Rochester would he forced immediately to expend large sums to procure a supplemental supply.
These facts raise the question whether a market increase in the use of water that would follow a general reduction in rates might not, instead of being an offset, become the immediate cause of large expenditures for a new supply from Lake Ontorio, the ultimate resort of the city in any event.
W hile the foregoing figures are six years old, new figures would not greatly change conditions. It is well understood that when the city is forced to go to Lake Ontario for its water and to spend millions for an unlimited supply, it will then he a matter of policy to reduce water rates in order to induce an increase in the per capita consumption. The question is raised at this time, whether such supplemental supply should he brought to the city in fifteen or twenty years, as is estimated at the present rate of consumption and the present rate of increase in population, or whether the new supply should be sought in five years, work starting on a plant at Lake Ontario as soon as the proposed connections at Canadiac Lake are completed.