Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Water Meters for Conservation

Andrew Morriss of the Commons notes that Massachusetts has finally passed legislation allowing landlords to bill their tenants for water usage:

Amazingly, "consumer advocates" opposed the idea as an "unfair" attack on tenants. For example, the National Consumer Law Center (which bills itself as "America's Consumer Law Experts, Protecting Vulnerable Consumers and Promoting Marketplace Justice") set out the case against "submetering" in a 2003 position paper. For a "pro-submetering" analysis from EPA, see here.

It is a remarkable thing that the notion of charging for use of scarce resources is actually controversial and yet another example of how interfering with markets harms the environment.
I would further point out that if people were truly concerned about the effect on the poor who cannot afford to pay their water bills, some other form of assistance could have been offered. Making it illegal to bill tenants subsidizes waste by all economic classes, not just the poor. Similar issues occur with rent control which subsidizes upper income tenants and ultimately make less housing available.

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