Test Need for WTP4

RECEIVED Mon., Aug. 30, 2010

Dear Editor,
    There is an argument which I have yet to hear from those opposed to the proposed Water Treatment Plant No. 4 (aka “mistake on the lake”). Paying for the plant will require a hefty water rate hike. It is quite possible that due to the rate hike, water usage will decline so sharply that the plant is no longer needed. We could build the plant and then wait to see if the rate increase causes such a decline. However, that is a very expensive way to learn if high rates will significantly decrease water usage.
    There is a cost-free alternative. 1) Delay the construction of the water plant for a year; 2) raise water rates to the level needed to pay for the plant (and the inevitable cost overruns); 3) reduce other city utility rates (garbage, electricity, street cleaning, etc.) so that the water rate increase is revenue neutral. After a year, if we find Austinites can live without acres of St. Augustine, the plant can be shelved.
Philip Russell
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