Los Alamos County Council To Consider Adopting Water Rate Increase … Seeks Public Comment

COUNTY News:

The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) and the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) are recommending that the County Council adopt a draft ordinance to increase retail and wholesale water rates by 10 percent.

The public is invited to provide comments on this proposed water rate increase until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21. To provide comment online, click here. Members of the public also are welcome to provide public comment in person at the Sept. 27 hearing. All public comments provided online will be shared with the County Councilors prior to the hearing.

The hearing on the proposed rate hike is open to the public and scheduled for:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 6 p.m.
  • Municipal Building, Council Chambers
  • 1000 Central Ave.  

If adopted, the new rates will become effective immediately.

Recent water sales have not matched the forecasted volume, driving the need for a rate increase. Rates are designed to allow the DPU to recover its costs, as well as bring in reasonable revenue to maintain reliable water services to Los Alamos County.

Continuing cool weather with consistent moderate rainfall has created a trend toward reduced water sales. Even with reduced sales, however, costs of operating and maintaining a complex water production and delivery system continue to increase. The DPU has invested almost $28 million dollars in water system repair, replacement, and improvement projects since 2003. To continue a prudent level of maintenance and replacement with current sales projections, rate increases are necessary.

In the FY2017 budget we projected a 10 percent increase in both wholesale and retail sales rates. It was recognized during budget formulation that 10 percent may not be enough to stabilize revenue at a level sufficient to support necessary operations and maintenance costs, but water sales are heavily dependent on weather. Rather than propose a higher increase at this time, staff is proposing an increase of 10 percent as budgeted, with continued monitoring of sales and weather projections to determine what future adjustments, if any, will be required.

It is noteworthy that the DPU reduced rates when the water system was transferred to County ownership and operation in 1999, while still maintaining a healthy cash reserve and performing significant infrastructure upgrades and replacement as noted above. Only with the rate action implementing tiered water rates in FY2014 did rates return to levels exceeding those 1999 levels, and only during peak season and at the higher rate tiers. With this proposed rate action, the base rate of $4.61/kgal represents a 6.5 percent increase over what residents were paying for water in 1999.

In comparison with certain neighboring communities even with this rate increase Los Alamos remains competitive with other New Mexico locations.     

RETAIL RATES

The draft ordinance proposes a 10 percent rate increase across the board for retail customers’ monthly service fee and the commodity rate. Retail customers include commercial, county/schools, residential, and multifamily.  

MONTHLY SERVICE FEE

Water Meter Size

Existing Monthly Fee

Proposed Monthly Fee

1-1/4 inch & under

$7.93

$8.72

1-1/2 inch

$25.12

$27.63

2-inch

$37.50

$41.25

2-1/2-inch, 3-inch

$74.00

$81.40

4-inch

$126.00

$138.60

6-inch

$266.00

$292.60

8-inch

$439.50

$483.45

 

COMMODITY RATE: 

The commodity rate for all commercial, county and school customers is one rate per 1,000 gallons consumed all year. 

Residential and multifamily customers are on a seasonal water rate. Off-peak season begins Oct. 1 through April 30 and is one rate per 1,000 gallons consumed with no tiers (the same as commercial, county and school customers).

Customer Class

Existing Rate

Proposed Rate

Commercial (all year)

$4.19/1,000 gallons

$4.61/1,000 gallons

County/Schools (all year)

$4.19/1,000 gallons

$4.61/1,000 gallons

Residential (off-peak)

$4.19/1,000 gallons

$4.61/1,000 gallons

Multifamily (off-peak)

$4.19/1,000 gallons

$4.61/1,000 gallons

 

Peak Season – Tiered Water Rates

Peak season begins May 1 and continues through September 30. It applies a tiered water rate only to residential and multifamily customers and is designed to recover higher costs associated with higher consumption. Comprising three different rates per 1,000 gallons consumed, the tiers are based on the following: Tier 1) first 9,000 gallons; Tier 2) between 9,000 and 15,000 gallons, and Tier 3) above 15,000 gallons. 

RESIDENTIAL (PEAK SEASON)

Existing Rate

Proposed Rate

Tier 1 Rate: <9,000 gallons

$4.19/1,000 gallons

$4.61/1,000 gallons

Tier 2 Rate: 9,000 – 15,000 gallons

$4.45/1,000 gallons

$4.90/1,000 gallons

Tier 3 Rate: >15,000 gallons

$5.32/1,000 gallons

$5.85/1,000 gallons

 

 

MULTIFAMILY (PEAK SEASON)

Existing Rate

Proposed Rate

Tier 1 Rate: <9,000 gallons

$4.19/1,000 gallons

$4.61/1,000 gallons

Tier 2 Rate: 9,000 – 15,000 gallons

$4.40/1,000 gallons

$4.84/1,000 gallons

Tier 3 Rate: >15,000 gallons

$4.50/1,000 gallons

$4.95/1,000 gallons

 

EXAMPLE WATER BILL

The following are examples of a monthly water bill for a typical RESIDENTIAL customer with a one inch meter. 

January (Off-Peak Season) water bill for consumption of 6,000 gallons

January (Off-Peak Season) 6,000 gallons

Existing Rate

Proposed Rate

Monthly Service Fee

$7.93

$8.72

Commodity Rate/1,000 gallons

$4.19 x 6 = $25.14

$4.61 x 6 = $27.66

TOTAL BILL

$33.07

$36.38

 

July (Peak Season) water bill for consumption of 12,000 gallons.

July (Peak Season) 12,000 gallons

Existing Rate

Proposed Rate

Monthly Service Fee

$7.93

$8.72

Tier 1 Rate/1,000 gallons 

$4.19 x 9 = $37.71

$4.61 x 9 = $41.49

Tier 2 Rate/1,000 gallons

$4.45 x 3 = $13.35

$4.90 x 3 = $14.70

TOTAL BILL

$58.99

$64.91

 

WHOLESALE RATES

Wholesale or bulk water rates apply only to the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Department of Public Utilities Water Distribution Division. These two entities purchase bulk water and then distribute the water to their respective customers. The draft ordinance proposes a 10-percent increase as follows: 

Wholesale Rates

Existing Rate

Proposed Rate

Monthly Service Fee

$542.00

$596.20

Commodity Rate/1,000 gallons

$2.88

$3.17
 

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