For the week of June 2, 1999  thru June 8, 1999  

Hailey’s drinking problem


It’s time for Hailey to find out where its water is going and to come up a water plan that will supply its growing needs.

Hailey residents use twice the amount of water consumed by the average American, and no one is sure exactly why.

Either Hailey is the thirtiest community in the nation, or something else is wrong. The city is trying to figure out what’s wrong because the drinking problem could hit Hailey’s pocketbook hard. It could also impair firefighters who could be left with dry hoses to fight a large structure fire.

Officials say that if consumption continues at the present rate, residents will have to ante up $1.2 million for a new water tank. Our guess is that the city is going to face paying for more than just a new water tank—meters or no meters.

Hailey is growing and will likely continue to grow as more and more people put down roots and develop vacation homes in the valley. That means its need for water is growing, too.

The city wants to see if metering will cause people to use less water. Chances are it will, but reducing consumption will only be a stopgap measure.

Metering every house in town won’t do much good-and will land some innocent people with some whopping water bills-if the water is being lost to leaky water lines in the old part of town.

A new water tank alone would only forestall the day when the old water lines will have to be replaced. And if consumption is really the issue, every home in Hailey will eventually have to be metered at a cost that may equal or exceed that of a new water tank.

Hailey has long been in denial about its drinking problem. It’s always been easier and cheaper to ignore it than to do something about it.

A few years ago, Hailey turned down a bond issue that would have been used to install water meters throughout the city. Residents turned down the bond because they saw no reason to have to pay for water by the gallon. They rightly worried that they would suddenly be cultivating some pretty pricey petunias, but they ignored the bigger problem.

Now the city has no choice but to install test meters to try to find out where the water is going because lives could be lost if the city’s fire flows are reduced to a trickle.

Fire is no laughing matter. The city needs to ensure that there is enough water to extinguish fires in large structures like the high school as well as homes and other businesses.

The good news is that with adequate fire flows and a well-trained and equipped fire department, insurance rates for businesses and homeowners could drop. Drops in insurance rates could help offset increases in water fees or taxes to pay for new water lines or tanks.

It’s time Hailey realized it is fast out-growing its small town fittings. It’s time to recognize that it needs a well-sealed big-town water system to slake its thirst.

 

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