Truckee utility district exploring new water rates

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE and#8212; The Truckee Donner Public Utility District will change water rates from flat fees to by-use metered charges, as mandated by state law, over the next few years.

At a workshop Wednesday, June 3, the district board discussed different rate structures to charge residential customers for metered water usage and#8212; a uniform rate structure that charges a flat rate, a seasonal rate that charges differently for summer and winter and an inclining rate that charges more as usage increases.

The state mandate requires the district have a billing plan by 2010 and implement it by 2011 for existing meters, said Board President Ron Hemig, which amounts to about 5,500 customers of the districtand#8217;s 11,800 total.

The district plans on having every residential customer on a meter by 2012, said Neil Kaufman, water system engineer for the district. Customers would have a year between meter installation and the new billing structure to see what their water usage is and adjust it.

and#8220;I think everybody ought to pay their cost. Save water, save money,and#8221; said Truckee resident Gaylan Larson. and#8220;Iand#8217;m sure when I see my bill Iand#8217;m going to want to reduce that.and#8221;

Many audience members supported an inclining rate structure, which charges higher prices per gallon as usage increases.

and#8220;I think we should have been on meters years ago; I think this is a great idea,and#8221; said Truckee resident Jacqui Zink. and#8220;Iand#8217;m wondering why we are worried about the impact on high water users.and#8221;

Director John Hillstrom cautioned those in favor of the inclining rate that it may not just affect the wealthy or those wasting water.

and#8220;You may think the high users are those who water the street, but it is schools and people with a lot of people living with them who necessarily each use water,and#8221; Hillstrom said. and#8220;No matter what we do itand#8217;s going to have a huge conservation impact.and#8221;

The new rates would keep an average water userand#8217;s rates about the same, said Shawn Koorn, the consultant with HDR Engineering hired by the district to help create the new rates.

Once the consultants further evaluate the rate structures, the board will pick one, likely in September. Then the new rates will go through public process, probably being adopted in November, said Steven Poncelet, public information and conservation manager for the district.

Customers would likely get side-by-side bills, charged the current flat rate, while seeing what their bill would be with the new rate, for up to a year, Poncelet said.

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