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With Sweeping Vote, MDC Approves Controversial Water Discount

Patrick Skahill
Connecticut Public Radio
Protesters outside the MDC's Hartford headquarters on Monday, March 2. The MDC later voted to approve a controversial discounted water rate for high-volume water customers.

The Metropolitan District Commission approved a controversial water discount for high-volume users Monday night. Right now, the measure stands to benefit only one customer: Niagara Bottling, a bottled water company.

MDC CEO Scott Jellison said offering the Bloomfield-based bottled water company a discounted rate will give it the opportunity to buy more water. 

But opportunity isn’t certainty, he said. 

“No one knows whether Niagara, or anyone will say, ‘OK, now I’m going to get a break, I’m going to use more water,’” Jellison said. “We do know that Niagara has a plant that can produce 1.2 million gallons of water a day.”

Niagara’s consumption is nowhere near that at present, but the company is still the MDC’s largest customer.

So on Monday night, the MDC Board of Commissioners voted 17-4 to approve a discount for large water users like Niagara. Under the rule change, large water users will pay the same rate as normal customers up to a threshold of 600,000 gallons per day. Anything over that amount will be discounted. 

The thought is that incentivizing high-volume users to buy more water will bring in revenue that can help offset rising residential water bills. 

But Valerie Rossetti of the activist group Save Our Water Connecticut said she doesn’t want water leveraged that way. 

“We’re disappointed; there’s been overwhelming public opposition to this,” Rossetti said. “We don’t think water is a corporate asset that should be used for profit and paid for at a lower rate by a commercial for-profit mega user.” 

The idea of a rate discount was initially passed in 2015 but rescinded the following year after public opposition. The idea came up again in 2018, but it never made it to the full district board.

Monday night’s rate change takes effect immediately for anyone who qualifies.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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