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water, water, everywhere

I’m own one of the few houses left in Buffalo that have unmetered water. That is, I pay a flat rate based on the size of the house, number of toilets and showers, etc. The truth is I probably pay more than I would if our water were metered, but I kind of like the idea of keeping things the way they are.

This year my neighborhood formed a block club, and the block club is going to turn some vacant lots into community gardens. I’ve volunteered to let the block club use my unmetered water to keep the gardens watered. Is that ethical?

—Fountain of Couth

Shutterbug says: Probably not. Although do ethics really matter when it comes to a community garden? The joy of the sunshine and flowers and children skipping merrily about pretty much overrules any ethical concerns. Spend less time focusing on ethics and more time focusing on how to bring this garden up a notch! Why not rabbits? Dragonflies? Ponies? Giant fountains to hydrate your new neighborhood creatures? Go big or go home.

The Practical Cogitator says: I think your Block club should open a public pool. Yeah, dig a neighborhood pool and then fill the pool from your unmetered water. Who’d notice? Fun or the kids, a great way to cool off for the neighbors. Maximize your water wealth! You could charge a couple bucks to patrons to use the pool. This could potentially earn a lot of money for your Block Club’s other projects.

The Sales Guy says: Although legally you can use the water for personal use because of it being grandfathered in it probably is illegal to give it to others. Ironic that in reality its an unselfish act that would help the greater good of the community.

My call is this if the city permits you to be unmetered, permit yourself to be unselfish.

The Saltwater Tart says: Yeah, why not..because government and politics are 100% ethical? Not to mention that utility companies are routinely getting caught one way or another by over taxing or charging undue surcharges on taxes, blah, blah, blah. Do something nice for the community and invest the unmetered water into the garden, make sure you plant some yummy veggies!

The Straight Skinny: Sure, why not. And while you’re at it, why not open up a bottling plant in your basement and sell the stuff at an obscene markup at high-end grocery boutiques and outdoor rock shows? (After all, what are the Aquafina and Dasani brands but filtered tap water?) Give it an iconic Buffalo label to hook the locaphiles and hip expats.

The ethics of this are simple: You are proposing to profit from the use of a public resource in manner that it is not intended to be used. You should pay for that resource. The fact that others—big corporations, for example—routinely dodge the responsibility to pay for maintenance of the public infrastructure that allows them to exist does not excuse you. If ethics is your concern, you’ve got to pay for the water you use. That may mean having a meter installed or seeking some sort of permission from a city agency. And good luck with that.

But if you’re asking what I would do? Well, I’d water those gardens and put out sprinklers for the kids.

The Pirate Says: Don’t tell me you’re even thinking for one second about starving the community garden of water because of your conscience. You’re damn right you should run a hose from your house. A huge percentage of the city’s water is already leaking out underground because of the decayed infrastructure. If it were a priority to conserve, our leaders would be fixing that problem pronto, rather than waiting around for the next water main to break.

As a matter of fact, I think all the community gardens in the city should be watered by opening up the fire hydrants.

All you need as a good, sturdy pipe wrench and the nerve to go out there and stick it to the man!

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