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Water rates adjust to usage

Goals are equality and revenue to replace 76-year-old pipeline

November 5, 2005

The monthly water bill may soon be going up for some Hood River city residents, and down slightly for others.

Under consideration are rate adjustments that could tie the cost of service provision more directly to actual usage, according to Ray Bartlett, the city’s sewer and water systems consultant.

He has recommended that larger water users foot more of the bill for provision of services.

And single inhabitants of a household be given a break since they typically don’t use their allotted share of water.

The rate adjustment, which will likely go into effect in January, drops the basic monthly charge for a household from $22.17 to $21.24.

However, the number of gallons allowed for the flat fee also drops.

The new rate is tied to 3,000 gallons of use each month. That is a decrease of 2,000 gallons from the current 5,000 allowed during the winter and 7,000 less than the summer allotment of 10,000 gallons.

“A typical small household can operate easily on that, but it certainly doesn’t provide enough for irrigation,” said Dave Bick, city engineer.

He said a typical family uses an average of 8,467 gallons of water per month, which will cost $29.01 under the new rate.

He said that figure also factors in an increase for overage charges from $1.27 to $1.42 per 1,000 gallons above the limit.

Bick, who likes to keep his yard green, expects to pay about $32.67 for usage of 11,000 gallons during the drier months of the year.

He said city officials are hopeful that the restructuring of rates will also encourage water conservation, a mandate of the Oregon Water Resources Department.

But, Bick said the primary reason for the rate change is to pay for replacement of the city’s 76-year-old water main line.

Since the early 1990s, the city has been forced to spend increasingly more money and staff time to repair breaks in the line that extends 12 miles from the spring near Lost Lake to the reservoir on Riverdale Drive.

The city has received a $4 million low-interest federal loan to start the first phase of the $18 million project next spring.

Bick said without taking some action, the city could find itself in the position of losing access to its only water source.

The odds of a significant time lapse in services increases in locations where the line meanders under a dwelling and through a steep embankment – making repairs more difficult.

“It has basically reached the end of its useful life and if it fails, we’re out of water,” he said. “In order to qualify for the loans to do this work we have to raise the rates.”

Bick said the city plans to hire a contractor for the work within the next few weeks.

The initial project will involve changing out the segment of pipe between the fire station in Dee and Iowa Drive.

A new chlorination station is also planned for construction next year.

The water purification plant, said Bick, will be outfitted with the latest in technology so that workers will be handling sodium chloride, which is made up of salt, instead of chlorine gas under pressure.

Bick said over the next few years the city will borrow other federal dollars to replace the remainder of the line.

And more rate hikes could be coming to repay the money that is being used to ensure water provision.

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