The New York Times featured an article about the sleepy town of Bolinas, California, where development has been managed through a unique process…

Marc Dwaileebe would like to build a house for his family on land he owns in this bucolic town just 20 miles north of San Francisco. But he cannot hook up to the water main that runs right past his property unless he has a water meter. And a water meter, in Bolinas, could cost more than $300,000.

Source: NYTimes – The Price for Building a Home in This Town: $300,000 Water Meter

Acknowledging the limitations on their water supply, 40 years ago the community enacted legislation that limited the number of connections in the municipality, allowing transfers of water rights (via ownership of a water meter) only when a property is demolished.

For a community that has limited water rights, rather than charging developers for additional infrastructure to connect to the system, (which many people claim ends up costing the existing residents in the long run, although I’m not convinced), at some point there needs to be a clear acknowledgement that the usable water has been fully allocated.

This concept runs counter to conventional economics and growth management, which would suggest that there is always a techno-fix to the environmental problem, but surely it is the right of existing residents (those who have paid into the system) to determine the future of their water resources.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.