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We may soon be asked to support some fundamental changes in the manner that water, sewer and storm water rates are to be calculated for residential, commercial and non-profit property owners in the City. The BOA Public Facilities Committee and the City have been addressing issues of fairness and equitability, while being extremely sensitive to the potential for any financial burden that might be imposed on our most economically fragile citizens.

But…in all the presentations and calculations I have noticed something missing. Not Wells Avenue, but wells. The kind that people can and have installed on their properties. (I believe Health Department permits indicate that there are 200-300 already in service in Newton, with more being dug.)

What do these well owners know that the rest of us don’t? Where is the economic argument pro or con? I would appreciate a discussion that might clarify these muddy waters!

Before a rate structure change, we need to ask questions like: Do well users pay for water used within their homes? (One Alderman told me that they do. Is this a fact?) Users of wells for irrigation have been able to avoid sewer charges for their outside water use for years, as people who choose to install double meters will likely now be allowed to do. However, people with double meters will likely be charged for their outside water use at a very high rate per HCF (hundred cubic foot). Well water users will continue to get (at least) their outside water for free. I know wells are expensive to install, but where is the public economic discussion here? Is there is a flat fee charged to the City of Newton by MWRA for either water or sewer? If so, is that flat fee supposed to be paid by “all property owners”? Then, are the well users paying their fair share? Also, at what point do either small or large water users (think shopping malls) leave the Newton water supply for well water, leaving the rest of us to carry a larger percentage of the total Public Works budget necessary to repair and replace our essential infrastructure on which all of us depend?

I have been told that a couple of Aldermen have wells on their properties. Perhaps they can tell us why they dug them!