Water misers get some bucks back | AspenTimes.com

Water misers get some bucks back

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspenites who have conserved water during this year?s drought deserve more than a pat on the back, as far as the Aspen City Council is concerned.

So, those residents will get a check in the mail sometime around the end of the year.

?I think people are to be congratulated for doing this this summer,? said Mayor Helen Klanderud.

The council agreed Monday to send rebates of up to perhaps $90 to city water customers who haven?t squandered water during this hot, dry summer.

The council adopted a new water-rate structure in June that established three escalating rates for water use to encourage conservation.

While city customers as a whole used less water than they did last summer, those who used water with abandon paid the price. By the end of October, the Water Department will have taken in an estimated $200,000 in excess revenues, according to Phil Overeynder, utility director.

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?At least at this point, we feel confident in saying we know there?s going to be substantial revenue to rebate,? he said.

He recommended, and the council agreed, to refund the additional revenue to customers who helped the city meet its goal of cutting water use by 10 percent this summer through voluntary conservation measures.

Customers whose water bills never rose above the basic rate ? $1.17 per 1,000 gallons for the first 15,000 gallons per month ? could see a rebate of about $90, according to Overeynder?s preliminary estimates.

For what Overeynder calls Tier 2 customers ? those who used between 15,000 and 30,000 gallons per month, paying $1.75 per thousand gallons for water after they passed 15,000 gallons ? a rebate of about $60 is possible.

For those who topped 30,000 gallons in a month, and paid $2.34 per 1,000 gallons for every drop over 30,000 gallons, no reward will be forthcoming.

The heavy water users may get a little something, though. The new rates went into effect June 24, but they were retroactively applied to water use that began with the June 15 start of the billing cycle. That back-dating was cause for complaint from some customers, Overeynder said.

The council agreed a refund is in order for customers who paid the higher rates before the ordinance establishing them went into effect.

When they adopted the new rates, council members envisioned rescinding them after October, when the irrigation season ends and residential water use drops off dramatically. Now, council members are wondering if they shouldn?t just leave the new rates in place.

It?s unlikely any residential customer would exceed the base rate during the winter months, according to Overeynder.

?I think it sets a good tone. We might have stumbled upon it by accident,? said Councilman Tom McCabe.

?I like the idea that it sends a message that we support water conservation ? winter or summer,? Klanderud said. ?I think it?s a good program that we may want to keep in place.?