Steamboat water utility rates could increase by 2% annually
In efforts to conserve water amid climbing temperatures and more extreme droughts every year, Steamboat Springs is exploring raising water rates by 2% annually until 2024.
Michelle Carr, distribution and collection manager for the city’s water and sewer department, conducted a study to see how the city can best balance affordability and conservation practices, and the study concluded that a 2% increase annually, which will add about $1 per year for residential households and $8 per year for commercial businesses, was all the city needed.
To keep the process equitable, water users will all pay the same for a base rate of 4,000 gallons per month, which Carr said is about how much the average household uses. If a household or business uses more the 4,000 gallons, users pay based on a tier system.
Residents currently pay about about $104 per month for water and wastewater uses, while commercial properties pay about $265.
How does the tier system work? All residents who use extra water will see about a 10-cent increase per month.
• Residents who use between 4,000 and 12,000 gallons will pay an extra $5.40 per month by 2024.
• Residents who use between 12,000 and 20,000 gallons will pay an extra $8.26 per month by 2024.
• Residents who use between 20,000 and 28,000 gallons will pay an extra $10.78 per month by 2024.
• The rates are lower for low-income and senior residents, and higher for businesses.
If Steamboat Springs City Council members agree on the rate Carr proposed, residents will pay 2% more each year, eventually reaching $106.25 per month, while businesses will eventually reach $290.47.
“This is to encourage conversation practices by setting the base rate and then having tiers of usage; that’s what we tried to encourage,” Carr said. “It’s kind of a balancing act, because while we want to keep rates affordable, and we’re really only trying to recover our costs of service and not any more than that, we just want to keep a balance to encourage water conservation.”
Council only heard the results of Carr’s study in a presentation and did not discuss whether they agreed with the increases, but council member Heather Sloop encouraged council to think about ways to spread the conservation message to the community.
“The normal layperson has no idea that there is this tiered approach to their rates,” Sloop said. “Is there a way that we, as the city, could say, ‘Hey, if you stop running your water and taking 50-minute showers, you’re going to get a lower rate, or you’re going to stay within this bubble?’”
The city’s wastewater treatment plant also receives water from Steamboat ll, Mount Werner Water and Tree Haus Metro District. Each system owns and operates their own wastewater system but still contributes to the city’s wastewater plant, so the fees will also apply to users within those districts.
Though the city breaks even on its utility fund, staff re-evaluate rates every three years to ensure the fund can stay self-sufficient. While Carr said a primary focus is to improve water conservation, the city also considers factors, such as drought, weather conditions and economic inflation, in considering whether to raise rates and by how much.
“The purpose is to re-evaluate the assumptions and projections made in the previous rate study and then kind of course correct,” Carr said. “IT is developing rates based on new information that we’ve had over the past two to three years.”
Council will discuss whether they support the proposed rates in December and will take two votes to finalize the increases Dec. 7 and Dec. 14.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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