|Volume 17, Issue 10||
Shocked by your water bill?
Dozens of people were commenting recently on local social media pages that their water bills seemed to be very high. People who had relocated from other parts of the country couldn’t understand why water is so expensive here in the wet northwest.
We asked Tualatin Valley Water District (TVWD) to give us some answers.
Have you thought about offering customers an equal-pay type option, like the gas and electric companies do? That might be helpful.
TVWD is making an investment, with our billing partner Clean Water Services, for a new customer information system. This is the computer ‘brain’ that holds all the customer, meter reading, and billing information. The new CIS system will be a commercial off-the-shelf system, while the current CIS is programmed by staff. The new system will enable additional features such as: monthly billing, level/equal pay options, and capacity to consider smart meters in the future. The new CIS is estimated to go live in 2021.Why are rates increasing in Base Charges and CCF (hundred cubic feet) rates?
The main driver for TVWD rate increases is the large investment we are making to design, build, and operate the Willamette Water Supply System (WWSS)—an additional water supply for the region. The past five years have seen double-digit rate increases. But thanks to WIFIA financing recently secured for the project in 2019, the TVWD board adopted a 3.6% rate increase for 2019.
We are currently projecting future rate increases to be 3.6% through the completion of the project. There are risks to these estimates, such as premature failure of infrastructure, construction cost increases, and declining water sales, which we had this year due to a milder than usual summer, so rate projections are updated periodically.
Water planning is done 50 years in the future, and financial forecasts are done in 30-year increments. Washington County is a vibrant and growing community. The WWSS will assure the region has a reliable and resilient water supply through 2050. The Cities of Hillsboro and Beaverton are partners too, which reduces traffic and environmental impacts and shares the risks and costs.
Why is water so much cheaper in other parts of the country, even the desert where water is scarce?
The cost of each water system is unique, based on a variety of factors—including topography, distance from the source, quality of the source, treatment process, and the business model of the provider. In some parts of the US, the federal government paid for the water infrastructure so that regions which would otherwise be uninhabitable, such as deserts, could be developed. In those areas, all US taxpayers shared the costs for the water infrastructure and their lower water rates reflected a lighter local burden.
TVWD does not receive any tax dollars, only fees and charges, so you, the customer, are the only source of revenue to pay for your water system. All funds are spent on your water system. Rates are based on the cost of providing service. We have no investors who profit or earn dividends from water sales.
What can a homeowner do if they experience a high bill?
Most high bills come as a surprise, when the weather is chilly and the memory of the hot days are fading. Water is charged based on consumption. Rates are set to charge more to customers who peak their share of the capacity. Peak use for a residential customer is more than 28 CCF in a 60-day period (10,472 gallons per month). Almost all (63%) of TVWD bills are for less than 7 CCF per month, which is about 5248 gallons, which is why 7 CCF is considered a typical bill.
Customers are encouraged to prevent high bills by taking steps to conserve water daily and during the summer, tuning irrigation systems, and monitoring their water use on the hot days. TVWD offers rebates on water saving items such as high efficiency toilets and weather-based irrigation controllers. Some restrictions apply.
Suspect a leak? Info on locating a leak in your system is available on our website. Eligible customers can request a water loss/leak adjustment after repairing the leak in their system. TVWD shares with the customer the cost (50% each) of the water that is estimated to have been lost from the leak, which is calculated by comparing water consumption to normal use.
Leaks are to be repaired within 30 days of detection. Adjustment requests must be received within 90 days of the leak repair. The 50% shared adjustment period is no more than three billing cycles (six months).
Payment arrangements can be made to assist a customer with an usually high bill. Customer Service is available at 503-848-3000 to assist you with these programs.
Cedar Mill News
Published monthly by Cedar Mill News LLC