The Point: Helping LIers understand water usage

Originally published in Newsday on August 19, 2019.

Daily Point: On the (water) table

A report by Citizens Campaign for the Environment on water rates paid by Long Islanders seems likely to have some legislative legs.

The report found that many water districts have confusing and abstruse ways of reporting how much water customers use, which obscures the cost of that water.

Released last week, the report comes on the heels of state legislation sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) passed in the 2018 session that takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020, requiring that water districts that serve more than 10,000 customers publish water used in gallons — as opposed to something unintelligible, like cubic feet per second. They also must include a seasonal variation so customers know how much water they have used over time.

“The idea is based on conservation,” Kaminsky told The Point. “If you know how much you used you might say, ‘Oh my God,’ and cut back.”

Kaminsky, chair of the Senate’s environmental conservation committee, said he and James Gaughran (D-Northport), chair of the local government committee, have talked about expanding the law’s mandate to include districts serving smaller numbers of customers.

“There’s no doubt we could reconsider that,” Kaminsky said, “and we could reconsider whether water districts that don’t have water should be selling water,” a reference to the eight providers in the report who buy water from a neighboring districts and sell it to their own customers with higher fees.

Kaminksy said he’s also mulling whether to subject elections for water district commissioners to campaign finance laws.