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Use more, pay more

(This letter was originally addressed to David and Paula Coslett.)Dear Editor:The Snowmass Water and Sanitation District has received your letter dated March 30, 2006 regarding the addition of two new “conservation” tiers to our inverted block rate structure. These tiers are not unique to Snowmass Village and are commonly used in the industry to promote water conservation. Many towns and cities, including nearby Aspen, Basalt, Vail, Edwards, Eagle-Vail and Beaver Creek, have implemented conservation-based rates aimed at households and businesses that use above-average or extraordinary amounts of water. Their highest tiers in these towns range from $4.46/1,000 gallons to $6.13/1,000 gallons compared to our highest rate of $4.80/1,000 gallons.We recently increased our rates for all users by a modest 4.4 percent per EQR to cover the increase in the normal operating costs to maintain our treatment plants and aging facilities (many of our water and sewer mains are 40 years old), as well as to offset the escalating electric and natural gas charges to the district. The addition of the new conservation tiers, as explained in the recent newsletter, has been discussed for some time by the board as a way to encourage water conservation. The changes would have taken place regardless of Base Village development. The board decided it is not equitable to pass on the increased costs of producing water for excessive use by significantly raising rates for users who stay within their allotted amounts. Fairness dictates that high-usage customers should pay for these increased costs. We are not trying to unfairly burden high-use customers, but encourage these customers to conserve water.An analysis of 2005 water usage within the district revealed that 85 percent of the district’s customers use water within an expected range; 15 percent of customers use exceedingly high amounts of water. Your usage for the third quarter of 2005 was 3 1/2 times higher than the average for a comparably sized home. Although this is considerably higher than the district average, there are some single-family homeowners within the district that use in excess of 900,000 gallons during the third quarter!We’ve analyzed your account and based on your 2005 water usage using the new 2006 tiered rates, we’ve determined that your annual bill would increase by less than $400 as opposed to your estimate of over $2,000.We will be sending letters soon to those customers that have historically used exceptionally high amounts of water, informing them of ways to conserve water. Please feel free to contact me at any time should you have questions or concerns regarding your account.Kit HambyDistrict manager, Snowmass Water and Sanitation District


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