Some Issaquah customers could pay more for water, sewer
March 27, 2012
Overhauling the rate structure for the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District could help stabilize the revenues from year to year at the expense of lowering the financial incentive for water conservation.
The revised rate structure could mean a 17.1 percent hike for sewer service and 8.6 percent increase in the cost of water for the average single-family home. The increased rates could help make up a more than $2.3 million deficit in the district budget.
The district is investing in updated pipes, pumps and other infrastructure to accommodate growth, but revenue is falling due to lower water consumption by customers.
The average home in the district uses about 1,400 cubic feet of water in a two-month period and could pay a water bill of $68.98 under the overhauled rate structure — up from $63.50 under current rates. The rise in sewer could be more drastic, from $42.96 every two months for the average homeowner to $50.34 for the same period.
But the proposed change could mean a cheaper water bill for customers using more water. The home using 4,000 cubic feet of water in a bimonthly billing period could see its water bill go from $147.59 to $138.20 under the updated rate structure. The change could be even more noticeable for the few high-end customers using 5,000 cubic feet in a billing cycle. The bill for the water use could drop from $182.09 to $169.40.
“A lot of our infrastructure was built in a real short timeframe a long time ago,” district Commissioner Lloyd Warren told the Citizens for Sammamish group at a March 5 meeting. “If we don’t start putting away money for the future, we’re going to run into a wall … where that infrastructure is going to need to be replaced. And people are going to be asking ‘Why weren’t you putting away money for this?’”
The district encompasses North Issaquah neighborhoods, including Providence Point, and Klahanie in unincorporated King County.
Overall, the district serves more than 16,000 customers in Issaquah, Sammamish and unincorporated King County. Beyond the district, Issaquah provides water and sewer service to most city residents, although Bellevue handles the Greenwood Point area along Lake Sammamish.
Warren and district General Manager Jay Krauss said the updated rate structure recognizes the district overcharged high-end users in the past.
The system is also meant to helps stabilize the sometimes-volatile swings in the district’s revenue stream, officials said. The district has seen water revenue fluctuate between $7.2 million and $8.7 million a year, depending on whether the region experienced a cool and wet summer or a hot and dry summer.
The district’s conservation measures — including some mandated by the state — and the proliferation of “green” technology, such as low-flow toilets, also contributed to lower-than-expected water use.
(Issaquah officials raised water rates 9 percent in November to offset conservation-related revenue declines.)
“We’ve done a lot of good work as far as conservation,” Warren said at the March 5 meeting. “I think the commission sort of said … it’s time to back off of that a little bit. We have to decrease the variability of our revenue. We’re on pins and needles every summer hoping we going to get enough revenue for the next year.”
In addition to maintaining a healthy aquifer and lowering customer bills, Krauss said conservation means less pressure on the district to build added infrastructure to keep up with future growth.
Janet Sailer, district conservation officer, said if every residence in the district cut down water use by 10 percent, the district could add 1,500 additional users to the current system.
“Conservation to the district means not having to supply the capital improvements that can lead to higher bills,” Krauss said.
Caleb Heeringa: 392-6434. ext. 247, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or email@example.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.