The Meter Question in New York.

The Meter Question in New York.

There is still much comment on the proposition to adopt a universal meter system for New York City. Naturally the owmers of real estate are opposed to the plan unless the Cost of water be charged directly to the user instead of the landlord. A bill providing for the installation of water meters was approved by the Governor at the last session of the Legislature. These meters, however, cannot be installed in tenement houses without the consent of the Board of Aldermen. During the early part of the year, when the Executive Committee of the Advisory Council of Real Estate Interests was studying the question as to whether $23,000,000 should be appropriated for the development of the Schoharie Water System, which appropriation was later approved of, it became apparent that either the city must add without limit and at great expense to its water supply or begin to reduce the waste and leakage. The Council says: The city will spend approximately $160,000,000 for a water supply which in 1925 will give about one billion gallons of water. The Water Department maintains that the use of 125 gallons per capita could be reduced to 65 gallons per capita by meterage, and conferences are now being held between the members of the Executive Committee of the Council and the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity on the subject. The council in this connection has prepared a statement taken from a report on the water waste in Chicago by a special committee on water supply for that city. This report states that the only relief in sight for the promiscuous waste of water is through metering. During the last seven years, while Chicago has grown in population 19 per cent., the water use has increased 35 per cent, hi Boston .and its suburbs, there has been an increase of 11 per cent, in population and an actual decrease in the consumption of water of 17 per cent. While Chicago has increased her per capita pumping from 220 gallons a day in 1907 to 254 gallons in 1914, the metropolitan district of Boston had decreased its consumption from 128 to 94 gallons, simply through increasing its proportion of metered service from 5 per cent, to 63 per cent. Cleveland in the eleven years ending with 1912 increased her population 60 per cent, and her pumpage only 5 per cent. In fact, 1912 was the first year of the eleven year period in which the total pumpage was greater than in 1901. The explanation that is offered for this is that during that period from there being almost no meters in 1901, Cleveland went over at once to universal metering, and the per capita consumption declined from 169 gallons a day per capita in 1901 to 110 gallons in 1912 and continued the same in 1914. Milwaukee has had a similar experience. With the increase of meters from 7,526 in 1899 to 36,415 in 1903, the per capita consumption fell from 112 gallons daily to 80 gallons. Pittsburg, with only nine per cent, of her service metered, supplies 238 gallons a day, or about the same as Chicago. Buffalo, with less than 5 per cent, of the services metered, pumps more than 300 gallons a day per capita. Philadelphia, with 2 per cent, of the service metered, pumps more than 200 gallons a day per capita. New York City, with only about one-half of her services metered and with some attention to underground leaks, supplies less than 125 gallons. It is conceded by this special committee on water supply in Chicago that there is strong popular opposition to meters, but it is stated that meters can be made just as popular in other cities as they now are in Cleveland and Milwaukee. To accomplish this the committee believes that four principles must be established. First, that there should be minimum rates, so that every one now paying water bills would be obliged to pay for a certain amount of water, whether or not the full amount actually is used. The consumer would then pay at the regular metered rate for all water used in excess of that amount, which the minimum charge would pay for. These minimum rates must be so much lower than the present flat or frontage rate as to permit the average householder to save money through meters, without check upon the consumption of water for ordinary use, while, on the other hand, the minimum must be sufficiently high so that the payer of water rent will feel that he might as well continue to use all the water that health and cleanliness require, since he must pay a price which gives him the right to such use. Second, meters must be furnished, set and maintained at the expense of the Water Department and through department employes. Third, meters must be furnished not only to such districts and individuals as are known or suspected of wasting water, but should he furnished indiscriminately, so that the meter will not come in the form of a penalty for carelessness or wastefulness, hut in the form of a sane method of reducing water bills to those who are at all careful in preventing the waste and leaks in plumbing. Fourth, the city administration undertaking the task must look upon the meter not at all as the means in the aggregate of increasing revenues in the department, hut rather as a means of decreasing future investments in extension of mains, pumping stations, etc., and of improving the pressure. Meters will more than pay for themselves in these ways, while if they are accompanied with such rates as will increase the revenues or even keep the growth of revenues quite up to the present rate, they are sure to bring such burden for a while to the less prudent of the community as to make the whole idea obnoxious to the people.

L. Homer Calkins, representing the manufacturers of liquid chlorine, was in the city recently and went to Kittanning Point with Water Superintendent C. B. Campbell to ascertain the proper place for the apparatus. It is expected inthis means to reduce to a minimum the possibility of any typhoid germs getting into the city’s water supply.

THE METER QUESTION IN NEW YORK.

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THE METER QUESTION IN NEW YORK.

There are some questions of detail concerning water meters which are open to dispute. These relate to the kind of meters which should be used; what they should cost; and who should pay for them. The last question is perhaps the most contentious of all, and there is much to be said upon both sides of it. But it and all the rest may be reasonably and equitably answered, upon due investigation and consideration. Not one of these involves in any degree the one great fundamental principle of the case —to wit, that the use of meters of some kind and in some way is the only rational and equitable method of water distribution and taxation. That fact should be self-obvious. It is simply an application of the ancient principle of rendering all things by measure and weight. It is a system under which each consumer will be charged for just what he uses, no more and no less. It is said it will discourage that free use of water which is desirable for sanitary purposes. But that is only to say people will not use water freely unless they can get it without paying for it. Surely it should be possible to educate them to a higher standard than that. It is to be believed that the average citizen is willing to pay a fair price for a fair service, whether it be in gas or water, in groceries or in transportation. He does not expect to get something for nothing, though, of course, he does not want to pay something for nothing. Under the present system there is no doubt that some are getting water for nothing, while others are paying for what thev do not get. Each house in a street is charged for water supply the same as each other of the same size and style. Yet in some houses twice as much water is used as in others. There is a reasonable analogy between the water system and the gas system. In the latter meters are used. True, the inaccuracy of the meters has long been a copious source of jests and complaints. Yet, on the whole, it is to be believed the meters register fairly, and it not conceivable that either the companies or the consumers would be willing to have them abolished and replaced by such a system as that which now prevails in the water department. We have no doubt, either, that, if the municipality were to undertake the supplying of gas, as it now docs of water, it would retain the meter system. If that is done in the gas supply, there is the more reason for it in the water supply, partly because there is much more likelihood of waste of water than of gas, and partly because water meters are much more accurate and trustworthy than gas meters. One suggestion which has been made concerning water meters in dwellinghouses is worthy of careful consideration. That is, that a certain minimum charge shall be fixed, as uniform as the present water tax. That charge should be for such a quantity of water as would amply meet the reasonable requirements of the household, and it should be exacted whether such quantity was used or not— excepting, of course, when the house was standing untenanted. There should be no premium put upon uncleanliness and thirst by making a rebate for scanty use of water. On the other hand, for all water registered bv the meter above that minimum a charge should be made. Under such a system there would seem to be no temptation unduly to stint the use of water, since nothing would be gained or saved thereby, while, on the other hand, there would be a strong restraint against mere waste. It may well be believed that in this wav the cost of water to the people might be decreased, the revenue to the city might he increased, and the whole service might be improved.—New York Tribune.