EDITORIAL: Rotterdam residents deserve answers on water meters

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“The problem with water meters is the board has really failed on letting the public know what’s going on. A massive amount of confusion. … Everybody has their own truth, their own lies. … From what I see, it’s got to be slowed down.”

If you polled the residents of the town of Rotterdam on the prospect of installing water meters on their homes, you’re likely to get a reaction similar to the gentlemen who addressed the town board at Wednesday night’s meeting.

You’ll also likely get a response similar to that expressed by a senior citizen who wrote a letter to the town board recently.

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The woman wrote that she was struggling to pay her mortgage and wouldn’t be able to pay for metered water.

She cited others with disabilities and on fixed incomes in the same situation as herself. She wrote that she wanted to see the analysis that this is going to benefit residents.

“I want to see the data. I want to see the vote,” she wrote.

Confusion. Questions. Fear. Anger.

Rotterdam officials are under a tight state deadline to provide a timeline for installing water meters. Yet many, if not all, residents are unsure exactly what’s going on.

They don’t know what the monthly or yearly cost might be or how they’ll be able to afford meters given their existing tax burden.

They don’t know who is going to install the meters on homes or who will have to pay for that.

They don’t know what will happen if they can’t afford their water bills or what the penalties might be for not paying.

They don’t know if there are grants available to help offset the cost or if they’ll have to shoulder the whole burden themselves.

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They really don’t know much at all.

Whether this situation and the lack of information is the fault of the existing town board, the previous town board, the state Department of Environmental Conservation or the man on the moon is immaterial to these residents.

What matters to them is that the town is about to embark on a project that could have a significant impact on their lives and of their ability to continue to afford to live in their homes.

Maybe town officials have the answers. If so, they’ve clearly not communicated that information. More likely, they don’t know the answers to many of the questions, yet they continue to move ahead with the project.

We keep saying that government belongs to the people. It’s about time Rotterdam officials demonstrate that, but holding a public information session or hearing or something to give residents the answers to their many questions.

State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara even got into the fray, writing a letter to the town over a week ago noting the residents’ confusion and the potential costs, and urging the board to set up a public hearing.

At some point, town officials will have to come clean and tell residents what’s going on.

That point is right now.

More from Rotterdam – The Daily Gazette

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Categories: Editorial, Opinion, Rotterdam

4 Comments
CAROLYN NARDIELLO March 25, 2022
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State mandates, really. Ignore the a/o’s’ If they levy a penalty, stop forwarding revenues. Time to listen to the people not egits at DEC.

Bill Nechamen March 25, 2022
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I don’t live in Rotterdam so don’t have a direct stake here. However, I do want to point out that water meters result in fairer rates for everybody, reduce waste, and help indicate when there is a leak. A simple leaky faucet can waste 11 gallons per day, while the average person uses about 60 gallons per day. I would think that the retired people on fixed incomes should welcome water meters as they are likely to use far less water than a large family. Also our most wasteful water use is outdoors in the summer. In general, people vastly overwater their lawns and that represents a significant peak in warm weather water usage. (as for me, I have never watered a lawn!)

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, New York City, which had been considering a significant increase in its water supply at a huge cost, decided instead to meter all connections (previously only large commercial connections were metered), invest in water main leak detection, and actually pay to install low flow showerheads and toilets. The result was that the city (which also supplies much of Westchester County and some other communities in their watersheds or along the aqueducts) actually reduced water demand by over 15%, while population grew. They were no longer talking about a 15% increase in their supply, which would have come from the Hudson River and would have degraded the quality of their drinking water. The savings exceeded $1 billion! Also wastewater treatment overflows were reduced, improving receiving water quality and reducing treatment costs.

Schenectady and Rotterdam, along with Niskayuna and Scotia-Glenville, receive drinking water from the Great Flats Aquifer, which is very productive and which we are not in danger of over-drawing. So why meter when we have an ample supply? Well it costs a lot of money to pump that water and treat it. It costs a lot of money to treat the wastewater. And even with a seemingly ample supply, last year’s spring drought combined with the Canal Corporation delaying the closing of the dams on the Mohawk River (the aquifer is recharged from the Mohawk River), lowered the water table to concerning levels.

We need water meters to monitor the water distribution and delivery system to make sure that water us used efficiently and the cost to all is as low as possible. Also note that water has a marginal rate that his higher than the average rate. What that means is that it is more expensive to pump the next unit of water than the average cost. It helps all of us, then, to reduce peak demand. Water meters can help do that by making people more aware of the cost of water, and providing an incentive to avoid waste and fix leaks.

Zachary March 25, 2022
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So just like the previous problem left by the previous board, this is another problem left to the NEW board. They are working on multiple solutions and have been since it came to their attention. It’s March, they have sworn in two months ago and already they have been left with two major problems from the previous administration. The first problem was fixed and I have no doubt that this will be fixed as well. Give them a chance for God’s sake.