Water Meters Not Foes of Cleanliness.
In commenting on Mayor Gaynor’s objection to the adoption of water meters in New York City, the Times says:
“Mayor Gaynor’s contention that if everybody’s bill for water were proportioned to the amountihe used, an equally close relation between uncleanliness and economy would be established, with the result, among others equally regrettable, of a decrease in the already insufficient number of baths taken, undoubtedly has a certain plausibility. On examination of the argument, however, one sees that it rests on an assumption which has little or no basis of known facts, and that what the mayor says people would do is not in accord with what they have done—in other words, contradicts experience. Private water companies, invariably, so far as we know, make every consumer have a meter and pay for what he gets. Their usual plan is to have an irreducible minimum, which the customer has to pay anyway, and then to charge Him for all used in excess of a daily amount fairly well adjusted to the decent needs of an average family. In the many towns where this system prevails, though there is a lot of complaint about high rates, nobody has proved—apparently nobody has even said—that any use of water except wasteful use is abandoned. Certainly nobody in these towns goes thirsty, and it is more than doubtful if even the mildest of inclinations toward cleanliness is vanquished by the desire to save money. It is the luxury, rather than the reality, of cleanliness that takes a whole lot of water, and, just possibly, water is better appreciated, and therefore more used where it costs a definite price per gallon than where it is treated as if much of it was worth no more than a little. Moreover, whether the universal meter system be introduced or not, the water does have to be paid for, in proportion to the amounts used and wasted, and it has to be paid for by the consumers. The price varies with circumstances, but the inexhaustible supply of the mayor’s ideal, with everybody privileged to use unlimited quantities of it—well, nobody knows better than he what it will cost New York to approximate that ideal not at all closely. The big cities on the great lakes have the inexhaustibly supply, but they have to pay for every gallon of water that passes through their pumps into their mains, arid what they waste cost just as much as what they use. Meters distribute the expense equitably, and though they diminish waste, there is no reason for believing that they diminish use.”