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How Troy residents can save $40 on their sewer bills


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There’s controversy about a proposed sewer rate hike in Troy, where the cost of maintaining and upgrading sewers to prevent catastrophic failures and chronic overflows is rising, after decades of under-investment.

The situation is common to communities around New York State with aging infrastructure, which is why Riverkeeper and a coalition of groups is advocating for the continuation and expansion of the New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, which provides grants to communities like Troy to invest in drinking water and sewer systems. The Governor and Legislature have supported this grant program strongly, and we’re urging them to boost annual spending to $800 million this year.

Communities have to do their part, as well. In Troy, there have been several recent sewer rate hikes. The latest would raise the average bill $40. Local taxes are also proposed to rise, though, so this modest increase is being met with controversy.

Troy wisely ties its water and sewer rates to usage, so every person who uses the water and sewer system has an incentive to conserve water. The more water conserved, the lower the bill. What’s more, the less water flowing through the combined sewers when it rains, the less sewage overflows into the Hudson.

According to reports in the Troy Record, the proposed new sewer bill would increase the sewer portion of the bill by $.51 per 1,000 gallons used, for a combined total water-sewer bill of $6.86 per 1,000 gallons. (Compare, for a moment, the cost of a single gallon of water on the shelf in your grocery store to understand the inherent value of this deal.)

To save $40, one would need to save 5,831 gallons of water in a year.

That sounds like a lot. But it’s not. The average user in Troy consumes 80,000 gallons per year, according to the Department of Public Utilities. Here are some ways that Troy residents could save $40 or more by conserving water, using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency water conservation tips:

Turn off the tap while brushing teeth and shaving. A family that changes this one habit can save 8 gallons per day, or 2,920 per year and roughly $20 at Troy’s proposed rates.

Fix leaks. One in 10 homes has a leaky faucet, toilet or shower head. Fixing a leaks 90 gallons per day or more – tens of thousands of gallons per year. Fixing a single leak of this size would save over $200. (Check for toilet leaks by adding food coloring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 15 minutes. Flush immediately to avoid staining.) If leaks require replacement of a fixture, choose a WaterSense-labeled fixture, designed to use 20% less water per use than competitors, to reduce ongoing costs. Read more about finding and fixing leaks.

Replace baths with showers. It takes up to 70 gallons to fill a bathtub, but 20-50 for a 10-minute shower. Replacing one bath with a shower per week could save more than 1,000 gallons.

Wash full loads of clothes and dishes. An older model clothes washing machine uses 45 gallons of water (a modern high efficiency washer uses closer to 15). Increasing your load from half to full sized even once per week could therefore save between 750 and 2,000 gallons of water.

Find more EPA water conservation tips

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