Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink
by David Trumbull -- April 1, 2011
Some Boston residents are resisting the city’s latest drinking water conservation measures, especially the proposed tap-by-tap monitoring of individual water consumption, claiming this is an unwarranted and possibly unconstitutional invasion of privacy.
The new water restrictions can be traced back to the May 2010 water main rupture that left Boston with no drinking water for a few days. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (“MWRA”) fixed the problem and conducted a thorough inspection of the system. What they found was alarming, especially for City of Boston residents. While last year’s leak was in Weston, it was actually here in Boston that the inspection revealed the most weakness and potential faults. The situation was so bad that the MWRA was forced to undertake substantial unscheduled maintenance and repair work in Boston and now those cost are being passed on to Boston municipal government—at a time when City Hall does not have the money to cover these additional fees and must pass them on to the residents.
As we found during last year’s “boil water” emergency, there was no shortage of clean water for purposes other than drinking or food preparation—the problem was in getting enough water that had undergone the additional steps to make it safe for drinking. The same thing applies now. It is specifically drinking water than the city will be paying more for, and that cost must be recovered from the citizens.
Here’s how the new system will work, according to a press release from the mayor’s Office of Citizen Outreach and Public Service:
Some citizens are highly critical, even outraged, at the mayor’s proposal to use the household water tap metering data to shame the city’s “guzzlers.” Billboards in each neighborhood will identify, on a per capita basis the household that drink the most water. Not all residents oppose. For example the Reverend Phil M. Upton of Sts. Judy and Liza Episcopal Church jokingly said, I just follow the advice of the Bible at 1 Timothy 5:23 – “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake.” But it is fair to say that opponents outnumber the supporters of the new drinking water conservation measures.
The backlash has even generated a new grass-roots political organization, the Beer and Wine Party, which is similar to the TEA Party only with a vow to avoid water and all beverages, such as tea, brewed with water, until the mayor backs down from his plans. Now if you think that is ridiculous, check the date of this newspaper.