Regardless of how much water a homeowner uses, the Department of Environmental Protection adds $.49 daily to the water bill.
State Senator Tony Avella argues the charge is unfair to many residents, especially senior citizens who live alone and potentially use very little water. It's even more unfair for those senior citizens who spend a large portion of the year in warmer states during the colder months and don't use any water at all.
“This is something that must be better addressed without forcing people to pay more money than the amount used,” said Avella, “which is often the case with senior citizens, single individuals, and those who frequently leave town.”
Stuart Hersh contacted the state senator's office regarding the issue.
“It recently occurred to me that the Water Department is punishing us senior citizens,” the 80-year-old Douglaston resident said at a press conference at Avella's Bayside office last week. “We tend to be alone once we reach a certain age, and as a result use much less water inside our homes.”
Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayer Civic Association, said his group has a lot of members live outside the city for months at a time.
“A lot of them are snowbirds. They pack up their belongings around Thanksgiving and they head south, and they do not come back until May,” he said. “They are not using any water in their home at all, yet they are forced to pay this ridiculous charge.”
A bill Avella introduced in the State Senate requiring the department to only charge homeowners for the amount of water actually used recently made it out of committee. The legislation is sponsored by David Weprin in the Assembly.
Avella said the initial reason homeowners began to be charged for water usage decades ago was to promote conservation. He said if homeowners knew they would only be charged for the water they used, that might also serve to promote the conservation of water.
“Not only can conservation of water help people on fixed incomes control their costs, but it is also an important duty given the ever-increasing demands we are placing on our environment,” he said.