Spokane City Council Responds To Water Use Charge Inquiries - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Spokane City Council Responds To Water Use Charge Inquiries

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane City Council adopted a new water rate structure last year that became effective Jan. 1, 2011. The new structure was designed to provide both a "lifeline" rate, which allows fixed or low income customers to pay for essential indoor water needs and to encourage water efficiency. The rates were restructured by a consulting firm hired by the city. Their recommendation was based on the success of similar water rate structures in other communities.

As a result of this restructure, 53 percent of households had lower water bills this summer, and 60 percent of households anticipate a lower annual water bill.

Conversely, 3 percent of customers—those using 82,500 gallons or more per month (or 165,000 gallons per two-month billing cycle—are seeing water bills with increased water consumption charges of $50 or more per month (or $100 per billing cycle) during summer months. A graph depicting summer 2011 water usage by customers is attached.

The average summer household consumption is 22,500 gallons per month. Larger bills were mostly seen by residents who had grown accustomed to abundant, inexpensive water.  These residents are using between 82,500 and 600,000 gallons per month.

"A number of customers, whether they have large or small lawns, have discovered for the first time that they are consuming more water than 97 percent of the City's residential customers," Council Member Richard Rush explains.  "I regret the City did not share this information with these customers prior to the implementation of the new water rate structure, and that this has been a hardship for those on fixed incomes."

"The assertion that fees for water consumption have doubled is inaccurate," said Council Member Amber Waldref. "For the water consumption charge to double, a single-family residential customer would have to be consuming more than a half million gallons per month."

"The new structure is more equitable because everyone pays the same amount for each unit of water they use in each tier," she adds. "Under the previous rate structure, each time your consumption rose into a higher tier, all your water usage was charged at the highest rate."

Council President Joe Shogan has introduced legislation to reconsider the water rate structure.  The discussion now is set to take place in November.

"Our citizens deserve to have this issue thoroughly considered," he said. "We will revisit this issue to ensure the City is charging a rate that is fair to all customers."                        

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