It may be tough to believe now, but in October 1860, Louisville Water was marketing a product no one really used. Bourbon was the drink of choice, and baths were a luxury. Who would pay for water?
When the Water Works began, there were no meter readers or water bills. Instead, there were “water rents.” You applied for water service in person and stated your purpose for needing water. An assessor would then calculate your rent, and you’d pay twice a year, in person, at the company’s original office building, a “neat and commodious two-story building” on Third Street near Walnut and Green. (Closer to the Ohio River by today’s street names.)
Everything was on the honor system. The company’s old ledgers have entries of cash payments but also bushels of green beans and tomatoes. After two-and-a-half months of business, Louisville Water had collected $947.25 in water rents. Company leaders wrote how each “inhabitant” used 9 2/10 gallons of water daily.
Fast forward 155 years and much has changed. People still love bourbon, but they also understand the importance of drinking water. They also use a lot more of it. Louisville Water no longer accepts bushels of green beans as payment, but we no longer require you to visit us in person to pay your bill.
While our customers were “green” with their payments in the early days, with LINK, our new customer care and billing system launching March 23, our customers now have the chance to truly “go-green”’ with the options of eBill and AutoPay. Although if people bring us green beans while also paying the bill, we won’t say no. We’re environmentally friendly in more ways than one.