The first burst of water from the hydrant brings instant relief from the heat. However, corollary results are mixed. The negative effects of an illegally uncapped hydrant multiply as additional hydrants are opened.
As soon as the cap comes off, an open hydrant generates 311 complaint calls, illustrating the tension among neighbors with regard to the unofficial use of the neighborhood hydrant. When followed by Times reporters, the DEP maintenance workers dispatched to close open hydrants were "booed and heckled, repeatedly doused with water, given the finger… pelted with garbage."12
Uncapped hydrants hinder the ability to fight fire, as the free flowing water lowers water pressure in nearby hydrants. Water pressure also falls in neighboring buildings, creating a nuisance for local residents, a challenge for local businesses, and a danger to hospitals.
The spray gushing from the hydrants damages cars, breaks antennas, snaps off bumpers and hubcaps, and threatens to push small children into traffic. A toddler was killed when the forceful water of a hydrant pushed her into the path of an oncoming truck.13
Illegal uncappings tax fiscal resources. Consumers ultimately pay for the squandered water and its treatment. Current rates charge $1.60 per 100 cubic feet of water used (1 cubic foot of water = 7.48 gallons), which translates to about $2 per minute if you were to pay directly for an uncapped hydrant.14 It costs an additional $4.29 per thousand gallons of water passed into the water treatment system.15
Extra costs associated with man-hours required to close hydrants, repairs of broken hydrants, and lawsuits related to broken hydrants are also passed to customers through rate hikes.16
Hydrants are opened at a vulnerable time — hot drought-prone months — lowering reservoir levels and threatening the ecological health of the system. As of June 25, 2008, April, May, and June of 2008 have received below average amounts of rainfall and the reservoir is 6% below average.17