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MDC Has Water Aplenty For Niagara Bottling

Critics of Niagara Bottling’s plan to locate a manufacturing plant in Bloomfield say that allowing the company to use up to 1.8 million gallons of water a day could strain the region’s water supply, which is provided by the Metropolitan District Commission. Their fears, however, are unfounded.

Janice Flemming-Butler

Janice Flemming-Butler

The MDC is a regional organization that sells water at cost and is run by an unpaid board of commissioners. The MDC controls more than 40 billion gallons of AA class water in its reservoirs. Currently these reservoirs are 95 percent full. These calculations are backed up by more than 100 years of data on precipitation and stream flow.

Thirty years ago, the MDC sold more than 66 million gallons of water a day to the commercial, industrial and residential users in our region. Today, sales have shrunk to just under 50 million gallons per day. Since 1986, MDC industrial sales have declined, from 17 million gallons a day to 2 million gallons per day. Less usage translates into a higher cost for everyone.

The MDC water rate is by far the lowest in the region. Recently, however, state and federal government requirements have added a $2 billion clean water construction program to improve sewer sanitation on top of that cost. The result of this mandate is a doubling of the cost of water.

In a perfect world, no one would need bottled water. Everyone would have access to clean, safe and abundant drinking water. This world does not exist.

Imagine the Flint, Mich., crisis without bottled water for people whose municipal supply is tainted with lead. Niagara bottling company, which for unknown reasons is a pariah to some, has provided millions of bottles of water to the affected residents. Without such a resource the Flint consumers would have to drink contaminated water. Flint, sadly typifies the water problems of far too many areas.

Americans consume well over 11 billion gallons of bottled water yearly. The amount of water consumed has risen dramatically over the past decade, to the detriment of sugary drinks. Bottled water is clearly cheaper than soft drinks, consumes significantly less water to produce a similar quantity and uses far less energy. Frankly, this is a positive trend.

Bottled water accounts for less than 0.01 percent of all the water used in the United States each year. The city of Los Angeles runs through more than 3 billion gallons of water a week. New York City uses about 7 billion gallons a week. The United States Geological Service estimates that more than 355 billion gallons of water is used in the United States every day.

It is hard to see how banning Niagara from establishing a plant in Connecticut is going to change anything, with the exception of denying some residents jobs, MDC customers much needed rate relief and the town of Bloomfield development. Hartford residents need jobs. The MDC board, Republicans, Democrats and independents, after providing public notice, voted unanimously to provide a volume discount to entice greater industrial use. The more water the MDC sells to industrial customers, the lower the rates are for everyone. If Niagara had been a customer for 2016, the water rate could have been reduced by 10 cents for every 748 gallons used.

If Connecticut bans the sale of water to a bottling company, it will go elsewhere; market reality dictates a need for Niagara’s product. Opponents hypothesize, without any factual basis, that we might run out of water if we sell to Niagara. Let’s live in reality. MDC has more than 20 million additional gallons of water that is available to be sold every day. Niagara, at full capacity, will use less than 2 million gallons per day.

We need to remember that a lot of our fellow citizens need a job, and need to have the cost of the water they use reduced. A blue-collar job paying $14 per hour is far better than no job at all.

Janice Flemming Butler of Hartford is a commissioner on the Metropolitan District Commission.

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