Drought may dramatically increase water rates

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Go ahead, run those sprinklers every day – but be aware, it will cost you.
Ignore the rules and you’ll pay at least an extra $150, and maybe more, if a proposed plan for new water rates is adopted by City Council. Voluntary water conservation hasn’t worked so far, as a voluntary request a few weeks ago to reduce consumption by 10 percent resulted in a nearly 30 percent increase in usage for the same period a year ago.
Acting in their capacity as the utilities board, the City Council told Utilities board director Phil Tollefson to come up with a plan for new residential water rates that would soak the biggest users with the highest rates.
With water levels in reservoirs at very low levels, the Council was divided over whether or not to wait until next year when levels might be even lower to adopt the rate increases. The proposal would charge minimal amounts for those using the least water, but the rate would jump at a certain level, and climb even higher when another level of usage is reached.
Just a modest cutback in water consumption results in big savings when considered citywide. Up to 400 million gallons could be saved in the next two weeks if each household saves just 50 gallons per day.
That is not a large amount of water. A single toilet flush can use three gallons. If everybody takes a long shower… you get the picture. Tollefson said the savings can be attained if residents do the following: Water only at night, three times weekly, and don’t hose down the driveway, patio or sidewalks.
Other ways to save include washing only full loads of laundry, running the dishwasher only when full, cutting showers by one minute, and turning off faucets while shaving or brushing your teeth.
The city has been under a phase one voluntary water reduction status for the past several weeks, but Tollefson said last week if residents don’t turn off the hoses soon, stage two limitations would be implemented. Those include limiting days people could water lawns or wash cars, and implementing fines for known offenders.
The pricing manager for the city-owned utility suggested a plan to lower the basic cost of water to $1.50 per 100 cubic feet of water used. The present rate is $1.67. When a resident uses 700 cubic feet per month, the rate climbs to $1.85. Use 3,000 cubic feet of water per month and the cost would be $2.20 for each additional 100 cubic feet.
If adopted, the plan would be in effect six months per year, from May through October. The reset of the year water would sell for $1.50 per 100 cubic feet no matter how much is used.