This post is a companion to this month’s water story.
While all of Chicago’s suburbs are metered, Chicago has more than 300,000 unmetered homes and businesses, which account for some 20 percent of water revenue. Simply put, Chicago is losing out – though at first glance, it may not seem that way to water users in the city: At $2.01/1,000 gallons, water in Chicago is some of the cheapest around. The irony is that unmetered properties jeopardize the continued low cost of water, because metering allows for faster and more responsive leak detection management, saving water and money; and helps the city with accurate billing, making sure revenue is not being lost.
The good news is that the cost of installation is so low – free, in fact! – and the perks are many. Through the MeterSave program, the City of Chicago Department of Water Management (DWM) will install a meter complete with automatic meter reading technology in any home free of charge. Rather than receiving an estimated bill, as they currently do, newly metered accounts will be measured accurately. However, as a thank you for participating in the MeterSave program, the DWM guarantees to participating homeowners that their water rates will not change for seven years. The resident is also eligible to receive additional incentives, such as a rain barrel or water meter monitor (a refrigerator magnet that shows water usage).
Chicago also has embarked on the Universal Metering Program, which aims to have all customers metered by 2023. The City estimates it will save 30 million gallons a day upon completion of the Universal Metering Program, and ultimately will help the city determine the full cost of providing water, which in turn will encourage behaviors that make more efficient use of our most precious resource.
What Our Water’s Worth highly encourages Chicago residents without meters to jump on board and register for free meter installation. Though we live on the shores of Lake Michigan, the amount our region can take from the lake is limited by federal decree – and we are nearing that limit. As Catanese preaches, “Water conservation now for the future!”