Raleigh water rates could increase

September 24, 2008 4:12:21 PM PDT
Falls Lake is more than full -- in fact, Raleigh's main water source is actually three feet above capacity.

The drought's over, and Raleigh water customers are doing their part by continuing to conserve.

"People have taken this to heart, I mean we just haven't seen those -- we didn't hit 70 million gallons once this year, in terms of demand," says Ed Buchan with Raleigh's Public Utilties Department.

Thing is, all this good news does have a potential downside. In the spirit of 'no good deed goes unpunished', water customers could soon find themselves paying more. The Public Utilities Department gets most of its operating revenue from selling water, and the bottom line is hurting.

"The less water we sell, that does affect our bottom line, that does affect our budget," Buchan says. "We are about 15 percent lower than we were through this period last year."

City Councilman Rodger Koopman says it's likely water rates will go up as a result. "Will they go up? I'm sure they will," he says.

Because of that, Koopman says it's important for the city to act quickly in implementing a tiered water rate structure, in which people are charged more if they use more water. The city is currently studying such a model, but it likely won't take effect for more than a year. Koopman wants it in place now.

"A tiered rate would protect somebody who actively conserves, because you pay the lower rate at the lower consumption levels," Koopman says. "For example if you have a giant, 8,000 square foot home and you have two sprinkler systems and you suck a bunch of our drinking water out of the system and onto your lawn, those are the people who will get penalized."

It's unlikely we'll have a new rate structure before January 2009, however, meaning it is likely all water customers will see a rate hike before then.

"If we want to continue to build water supply projects and have this great quality of life, the price of water could go up," Buchan says.

He added that the water rates went up about 15 percent last year.


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