It doesn't hold water

January 10, 2012

When a new water rate schedule came before the Harford County Council last week, Councilman Joe Woods and Council President Billy Boniface did the right thing to flag it for further review.

Specifically, they raised questions about the county's division of water and sewer, including a provision that would charge new homes with sprinkler systems a higher base charge. Essentially, it means a home without sprinklers would be considered an "equivalent dwelling unit" for purposes of determining water charges, while a home with sprinklers would be considered two "equivalent dwelling units."

The argument is that a larger connection is needed for houses with sprinkler systems to accommodate the flow necessary in case there's a fire. Having access to greater capacity, the reasoning follows, means there's a possibility more water will be used.

The natural pun here is to say the argument doesn't hold water. If a house with sprinklers is occupied by a family of four, the daily water use is going to be comparable to a family of four in a house without sprinklers.

Furthermore, water is metered, so families with high water use rates end up being charged more, regardless if they have sprinklers.

Granted, a house with sprinklers will use a lot more water when the sprinkler system is activated, though as Woods, a member of the Fallston Volunteer Fire Co. pointed out, the fire service would end up using less water to put out the fire.

Furthermore, fires of the kind that activate sprinkler systems are, thankfully, relatively rare.

Charging higher base rates to the owners of homes with sprinkler systems seems like little more than a way to unfairly wheedle money out of people. The proposal should not be part of the county's water rate schedule.

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