Los Alamos DPU Board To Consider Tiered Water Rates

DPU News:

Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities will present to the Board of Public Utilities ordinance 02-239, which would implement a seasonal tiered water rate for residential and multi-family customers. Open to the public, the hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15 at the Municipal Building, 1000 Central Ave., Suite 110.

Should the Board approve the recommended ordinance it will be considered for adoption by the Los Alamos County Council at a public hearing tentatively scheduled in February.

According to DPU officials water consumption in Los Alamos more than doubles during the summer months with the majority of the increased use attributable to outdoor watering. This increased demand requires additional costs for pumping and delivering water and puts additional wear and tear on infrastructure, accelerating the need for replacement.

DPU reports that based on historical data, 21 percent of residential customers use 56 percent of the total residential water consumed during the summer. 

The proposed ordinance attempts to more closely align commodity charges with the cost of providing water. It will allocate the additional costs associated with higher consumption to the peak water use instead of socializing those costs among all water users.  

SEASONAL TIERED WATER RATE

DPU is recommending that during the non-peak months from October to April, residential and multi-family customers be charged a flat rate of $3.99 per 1,000 gallons consumed. This is actually less than the existing rate of $4.19 per 1,000 gallons. 

During peak months from May to the end of Sep., residential and multi-family customers would be charged on an inclining scale based on the amount of consumption. The first 6,999 gallons consumed would be calculated at a rate of $4.19 per 1,000 gallons. This rate would increase for consumption at 7,000 to 15,000 gallons, and increase again for all consumption over 15,000 gallons.

Residential Tiers

  • First Tier: $4.19 per 1000 gallons for the first 6,999 gallons consumed (same as current unit rate);
  • Second Tier: $4.25 per 1000 gallons for consumption between 7000 and 15,000 gallons (1.4 percent more than current unit rate); and
  • Third Tier: $4.61 per 1,000 gallons for all consumption above 15,000 gallons (9.1 percent more than current unit rate).

Multi-Family Tiers

  • First Tier: $4.19 per 1000 gallons for the first 6,999 gallons consumed (same as current unit rate);
  • Second Tier: $4.22 per 1000 gallons that is consumed between 7000 and 15,000 gallons (0.7 percent more than current unit rate); and
  • Third Tier: $4.25 per 1,000 gallons for all consumption above 15,000 gallons (1.4 percent more than current unit rate).

Should the ordinance be adopted, about 80 percent of residential customers would be below the third tier, and would see a slight reduction in the annual commodity cost for water (although the overall bill will be higher due to service fees and a newly added conservation fee.)  

In addition to the seasonal tiered water rate, the proposed ordinance increases the monthly service fee and adds a new monthly conservation fee of $1.

MONTHLY SERVICE FEE

The increased monthly service fee is incrementally larger as the meter size increases and applies to all customer classes. Similar to the seasonal tiered rate, the increase to the service fee allocates costs associated with infrastructure required to meet water demands of the installed meter.  Large commercial and irrigation meters of six inches have 125 times more capacity than a 5/8-inch residential meter. The new service fee for a six-inch water meter would increase from $180 to $266, while the service fee for a one-inch water meter would increase from $8.80 to $10.70 and the service fee for a 5/8-inch meter would remain unchanged at $7.55.  The complete listing of service fees changes is available on the County’s open forum website at:  http://www.peakdemocracy.com/1663.

CONSERVATION FEE

Established to fund additional conservation programs which would include educating consumers on more efficient ways to maintain greenscapes, the proposed monthly conservation fee of $1 will apply to all customer classes. Revenue generated from the conservation fee will be used by the DPU to meet its goal to reduce water consumption 12 percent by 2050. This goal is outlined in DPU’s Energy and Water Conservation Plan, adopted by the Board of Public Utilities in July 2013. The fee will be assessed to each service location. For multi-family locations where individual units are not individually metered for water, the fee will be assessed for each unit serviced at that location. 

EXAMPLE BILLS

To illustrate, DPU applied the new rate to a high water use customer and a low water use customer record, both with a one-inch water meter.

Under the existing rate the annual expenses for the high water use customer last year (consumption ranged from 4,100 gallons to 77,000 gallons a month) was $1,686 for the water commodity and $106 in monthly service fees for an annual total of $1,792 for water. Under the proposed ordinance with the same quantities of water consumed, this customer would see water commodity charges increase to $1,755, monthly service fees increase to $128, plus an additional $12 conservation fee for an annual total expense of $1,895. This particular high water use customer would therefore see a $103 annual increase in their water bill. 

Annual expenses last year for the low water use customer (consumption ranged from 1,400 gallons to 2,400 gallons a month) under the existing rate was $92 for the water commodity and $106 in monthly service fees for an annual total of $198. Under the proposed ordinance with the same quantities of water consumed, this customer would see the water commodity charges decrease to $89, the monthly service fees increase to $128, plus an additional $12 conservation fee for an annual total of $229. This particular low water use customer would therefore see a $32 annual increase in their water bill.

The Board of Public Utilities will hear the DPU recommended ordinance at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 15 at the Municipal Building. Public comment can be provided on the County’s Open Forum website at http://www.peakdemocracy.com/1663 until Jan. 14 or in person at the Jan. 15 public hearing. 

 

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