The tax you're paying for simply using water would be increased under a measure being considering in the State legislature.

Flickr User Michael Hamann

The chairman of the State Senate Environment Committee sponsors the bill in the Upper House and even he knows it is a long shot at best.

State Senator Bob Smith says, "There are three ways to fund open space that I know of. One is a water user fee and if you want to be nasty about it, a tax or user fee. However you want to approach it…..That's one way to do it and it's a way that I've been advocating for 25 years, but it hasn't succeeded so maybe it's not so popular."

Lawmaker Says Open Space Preservation Fund at Zero

Smith says the traditional way of funding open space preservation is to borrow money for that purpose. The third way is to dedicate a portion of an existing tax to replenishing the fund.

Next month says Smith, his committee will consider the water fee bill and legislation to bond for open space and another to dedicate a portion of an existing tax to the fund, most likely the sales tax.

Why does the fund need money? Smith explains, "We are now at zero in our open space funding. It's over. If you've come to the conclusion, and I think it's the right conclusion, that the people of New Jersey want to see continued acquisition of open space we need a way to re-fund open space, farmland (and) historic preservation."

It is estimated that a surcharge equal to forty cents per thousand gallons of water would raise approximately $150,000,000 in annual revenue. Since the average residential water usage in New Jersey is 80,000 gallons of water annually, a forty cents per thousand gallons rate would cost the average household $32 per year.

Despite the nominal increase, opponents say New Jersey residents are fed up with tax hikes of any kind and any size.