Water utilities tend not to use prices to encourage conservation. Many utilities still use declining block rates. Even after switching to ascending blocks, however, some have hookup charges that amount to fixed charges of more than half the cost of water. Converting the hookup charge from aflat amount to an amount based on actual water use could lead to substantial savings in usage and cost. In Denver, where a hookup charge now is equivalent to $400 per year added to one's mortgage, the savings in usage that would result from a usage-based hookup charge are estimated at between 9 and 32 percent of total use. A usage-based hookup charge would substitute for a proposed dam costing more than $500 million. Structuring prices to control usage would be far simpler than implementing the conservation programs now being proposed in some water utilities, would result in lower water costs for anyone desiring lower costs, and would allow individuals to choose whether to conserve but require them to pay the costs of their decision. Copyright 1990 Western Economic Association International.
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