This is National Drinking Water Week—a time for not taking water for granted—which makes this post particularly vexing.
Despite passing unanimously in the Ill. State Senate, SB3147, which would have created income tax incentives for the purchase of WaterSense products (as well as some energy efficiency and renewable energy production technology) has died in the House. It wasn't voted down, it simply never made it out of committee. As disappointing as that is, the justification for it is all the more alarming.
The failure of SB3147 has nothing to do with water, or energy, or using them both efficiently. No, the real reason is that the State of Illinois is so broke that it can't afford to give $40 million back to its residents and businesses as an incentive to conserve natural resources and reduce strain on crumbling infrastructure. That's right, we can't afford to do the right thing, and that's sad.
What's worse is that incentives for purchasing water-efficient products can stimulate job creation and produce tax revenue. Plenty of Illinois firms produce WaterSense-certified products like toilets and shower heads, and even more sell or install them. According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency, for every $1 million put into a high-efficiency toilet rebate program, the output is $2.54 million in economic activity, including $960,000 in labor wages and 18 new jobs. So not only can Illinois not afford to conserve water and energy, we also can't afford to create jobs and stimulate a specialized sector of the economy. That's even sadder.
We'll try again next year.
There is some good news on the water efficiency front. Batavia, out in Kane County, has taken the initiative and created the first WaterSense incentive of any kind in Illinois. Residents will get a $50 rebate for purchase of a 1.28 gallons per flush WaterSense toilet. Based on the community's water rates, a family of four could save about 17,000 gallons of water and $120 a year. WaterSense toilets can be purchased for as little as $100... with the $50 rebate in hand, a toilet at that price would pay for itself in a few months. Good work, Batavia!
Here's hoping your neighbors—and your state—are watching.