The billing system used by New York City's Water Board - an autonomous, seven-member panel appointed by the mayor to set rates for the city's water and sewer services - has long been grounds for heated debate. As of the late 1980s, the city was one of the last urban areas to still charge customers a flat rate charge for water used. However, studies showed that New York City's per capita water consumption was the highest among the nation's urban areas.
In an effort to conserve precious H2O, officials with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced in 1988 that within 10 years, every residential building in the city would be required to have a water meter as part of the new "Multi-Family Conservation Program," or MCP. This program would replace the "frontage," or flat-rate, system, which was based on such variables as number of units in the building, number of bathrooms, number of plumbing fixtures, width of building and other information.
This past June, the DEP announced that the Water Board plans to extend the deadline for buildings to choose between metered and the new MCP version of the flat rate. By June 30, 2006, buildings wishing to participate in the program will need to be in compliance with the program's requirements. By July of 2006, multiple dwelling buildings of six or more units must either have at least 70 percent of their plumbing fixtures and hardware converted to energy-conserving versions or they will be switched automatically to metered billing.
The objective? According to the DEP, the idea is "To promote water conservation in multi-family buildings and to give owners of such buildings a measure of control over their water and sewer costs, while at the same time being revenue neutral relative to the water system as a whole and to other customer classes."
If a building is permitted to enter the MCP Program, it will be charged $517.69 per dwelling unit, according to William Kusterbeck, treasurer for the Water Board. The old method of billing, "frontage," will no longer be used by the board.