Different, But Not Better.

Dave Killion — February 19, 2011

The Victoria News reports

“Victoria city staff have recommended charging residents a separate fee for their use of storm drains, much like fees for water and sewer.

Right now, upgrades to the storm drain system are funded through general revenue. Switching to a user-fee system would provide stable funding to a chronically underfunded program.”

As a libertarian, it’s my view that the only thing council should be considering is how best to withdraw from the provision and maintenance of storm drain systems as quickly as possible. With that qualification, I have to acknowledge that properly designed user-fees could produce better conservation outcomes by providing market incentives for residents to keep rainwater on their own property. Too bad governments have trouble properly designing user-fees! From the article:

“… residents can apply for fee reductions if they have rain-catching devices such as rain barrels.”

Rain catching devices can be expensive, require maintenance, and must be disposed of eventually. They are not a slam-dunk, environmentally speaking. Furthermore, they are entirely unnecessary. Since the BC Building Code doesn’t require downspouts be connected to a sewer, residents can simply direct their roof drainage onto the surface of their property. Cheap and easy, but not an option. Perhaps its not sexy and progressive enough.

And don’t imagine this new proposal will save the taxpayer any money. Steady funding for the public storm system means less money for some other department, and that won’t happen without a fight. Furthermore, if there are fee reductions to be had, then there will be applications to process and site inspections needed to insure compliance. Victorians can look forward to throwing more money down the drains than they ever have before.

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