Water is going to get more expensive, but Council should not increase rates for residents on the lowest tier of monthly usage.
The Water Department’s budget is separated from the city’s general fund and Capital Improvement budget. The department pays for itself — water fees and monthly billing pay for acquiring the water, treating it, and distributing it, as well as collecting, treating, and discharging the wastewater.
With one big and one very large project on the horizon, we’ll be diversifying and expanding our water sources by hooking up to state water, and building the WaterPure facility. Together, those projects will cost about $300 million.
Some of that money has been collected already, but most of it will come from increased water rates. This summer, the Water Commission will work with the city and consultants from Raftelis to draft a new rate structure. After the Water Commission approves it, it will be heard by City Council, perhaps in January. Because it’s a utility rate increase, Council will hold a public hearing. The new rates would likely go into effect on July 1.
Affordability must be a top priority of the new residential rate structure. Tier One is the first 6 Hundred Cubic Feet of residential water used in a two-month billing cycle. It works out to about 75 gallons per day. That’s the water a household needs for bathing and cooking. The cost of that water should not be increased. Higher tiers of usage will need to be increased, and keeping the lowest tier at its current cost will slightly decrease the revenue stability, but Council should not increase the cost of water used for drinking, cooking and bathing.