A dozen years ago, in an effort to stave off the kinds of water shortages that periodically plague the country during the drought season, the federal government decreed that New York City had to install water meters in all buildings within its limits as part of a nationwide conservation drive.
The move was also seen as a way to help alleviate some of the strain on New York’s already overburdened water treatment facilities.
A ten-year timeframe was established, within which the work was supposed to have been completed. When that deadline came and went, an 18-month extension was granted. That grace period will now expire on June 30th.
Any city property-owner who failed to have a meter installed by Friday will be subject to paying twice the usual frontage fee charged for water usage over the course of the following year. Water bills have traditionally been paid on a flat rate basis, one year in advance. Bills are set to be posted by July 5th.
Under a program run by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, property-owners have had the option of having a city contractor visit their home and install a water meter at no cost to themselves, or to hire their own contractor to do the necessary work according to the DEP’s specifications. The city will reimburse at least part of the cost of having the work done privately.
For buildings of less than six units, the meter system will take effect within a few weeks after the meter has been inspected and approved. The account will be credited with any unused portion of that year’s flat-rate bill.
Building’s with six units or more have the option of remaining on the frontage system for a transition period of two years following installation or changing over to meter use, depending on which system they believe will be more economical.
If the building has low-flow toilets, which are now industry-standard, it is entitled to an additional year on the frontage system.
Billing according to the meter reading will not commence immediately on buildings of more than six units unless otherwise requested by the property-owner. Once a building has converted to the meter system though, it cannot revert back to the flat rate.
Even after the June 30th deadline elapses, the city will continue its program of installing water meters in buildings that have not yet had them implemented, and providing at least partial reimbursement of private work.
Those who have failed to have the meter installed in time for the deadline will pay the additional surcharge up front, but will be entitled to having it pro-rated from the date the meter is installed and working.
The catalyst for instituting such water conservation incentives as the meter system was an increasingly unsustainable level of consumption.
Demand for water in the city had been rising at a rate of more than one percent a year throughout the previous three decades, and had threatened to exceed the “dependable yield” of the reservoir system.
For more information, call 595-7000.