Flat water rates for Truckee residential customers are nearly a thing of the past come the beginning of 2010. The Truckee Donner Public Utility District Board of Directors is close to approving a new volume-based rate structure, which will then open the door for the required public comment period. After nearly a year spent researching, holding public workshops and contracting with HDR Consultants of Reno to complete a water rate study, the board of directors seems to be comfortable with the proposed ordinance. Potential approval on September 16 will come just in time, since state law requires the district to begin reading all residential water meters and billing volumetrically by January 1, 2010.

Even if the ordinance is adopted and the public process goes smoothly, however, customers with meters in place will have a year-long transition period in order to adjust to the new usage-based system, and customers without meters will have even longer.

TDPUD Director John Hillstrom is satisfied with the work that’s gone into defining a volume-based water rate structure and feels the board has done a thorough and equitable job getting to this point.

‘Our first version of the volume-based rates is meant to be a very gentle introduction for residential users to paying for water by use and is meant to reduce the risk that we’ll have to make a big adjustment down the line,’ Hillstrom explained in a recent e-mail. ‘On the residential side, the most important outcome is that people will now pay for the water they use, and we have the knobs and dials that we can adjust down the road to meet future goals.’

Hillstrom is also pleased with the new method for calculating commercial water rates, which he feels will encourage a great deal more conservation. ‘The big news on the commercial side is that we got rid of declining block rates which meant that the more you used, the less you paid, per gallon,’ he wrote, ‘…the commercial side has been metered for some years but as part of the monthly fee, commercial customers used to receive their first 10,000 gallons for free – we’ve also gotten rid of that – no more free water.’

If approved, residential customer fees will be different at the beginning of 2010 depending on whether a meter is installed on the property. Metered rates will be calculated using three different components: a base charge, a commodity charge and zone charge, while non-metered customers will pay a monthly charge based on the zone they reside in.

If the ordinance is adopted on September 16, a public comment period will officially commence culminating in a public hearing on November 18. More information about the proposed rate system can be found on tdpud.org, where customers can also use an interactive tool to determine if their residence is equipped with a water meter. The website also features live streaming video of all board of directors’ meetings and an archive, allowing users to go back and view specific items of interest from past meetings as well.

~ Beth Ingalls, bingalls@moonshineink.com.