A flushing tax? You've got to be kidding

Australia may have a way to help solve the world's drought problem: Charge homeowners for each flush of a toilet.

While the final solution may not be that simple, economic and water officials in Australia are promoting a plan there that would charge homeowners based on waste water output. Currently, sewage charges are based on a home's value.

"It would encourage people to reduce their sewage output by taking shorter showers, recycling washing machine water or connecting rainwater tanks to internal plumbing to reduce their charges," Adelaide University Water Management Professor Mike Young is quoted in Perth Now.

"Some people may go so far as not flushing their toilet as often because the less sewage you produce, the less sewage rate you pay," Young said.

I live in California, where water is a precious commodity and where even during a week of rain, people are talking about the upcoming drought. Water tips are nothing new, but paying for your outgoing sewage is.

The thing I don't understand is how someone could be charged twice for using water -- even if the water is dirtied. I already pay for bringing clean water into my house. This program -- and yes, I know I don't live in Australia -- would mean I'd also be paying for sending the water out as sewage. I already get a water bill, and my sewage fee is part of my annual property tax bill. Another bill for how much sewage I send out seems extreme; and there isn't a meter on my sewage pipe -- at least not yet.

According to Young, Australians would pay for it as they used it and would also pay a small fixed annual fee to cover the cost of meter readings and pipeline maintenance.

Young said that such a system already exists elsewhere, in Bellaire, Texas, a suburb of Houston.

An area in Florida charges for water and sewer usage, at $4.99 for 1,000 gallons of residential sewage.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.AaronCrowe.net

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