An alarm sounded


A recent Michigan State University study that predicts a surge in water prices during the next several years is just one more reason for local leaders to put their differences aside and agree on the governance of a regional water district.

The MSU study, which appeared in the journal PLOS One, predicted that water prices will need to increase 41 percent in the next five years to upgrade aging infrastructure. Absent a big jump in the average household income or a restructuring of water rates, the increase will be too dramatic for one-third of American households to afford.

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Circle of Blue, a nonprofit group consisting of journalists and scientists, found that the nation’s 30 largest cities have already seen a 48 percent increase in water since 2010, causing many poor households to lose access to water. There have been roughly 50,000 shutoffs in Detroit since 2014. The MSU researchers are predicting that the additional spike will mean 41 million U.S. households will not be able to pay their water bills by 2020.

Those are almost doomsday-scenario projections. It should be a basic human right in America to have access to affordable water.

In northwest Ohio, we are fortunate to have a reliable source of fresh water, so it is incumbent upon our leaders to keep it affordable and clean. The clearest path to that goal is the formation of a regional water district .

Last month, the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments agreed to pay a consultant $98,000 to help Toledo and its suburban customers reach a deal on how a water district should be organized.

This is the most pressing issue for our area, and the negotiating should not drag on indefinitely. A water district will ease the financial burden on Toledo in maintaining the Collins Park treatment plant, but, most importantly, it will ensure stable, fair water rates for regional customers.

The Michigan State study is alarming, but it also points to the valuable resource Lake Erie is to northwest Ohio. The lake provides a reliable water supply and will be a selling point in the future to outside investors interested in the region. It is now up to our local leaders to maximize that resource.