Some monthly water bills could rise more than 50 percent under new rates Douglas County is looking to finalize for three Lake Tahoe water systems.
Zephyr Water Utility District, Cave Rock-Uppaway and Skyland are facing a series of rate changes over the next five years.
Under new direction from county commissioners Thursday, the proposed monthly rates for a typical residential customer in 2015 would be $126.77 in ZWUD, $90.58 in Skyland and $162.48 in Cave Rock-Uppaway.
Current monthly rates are $79.95 in the Zephyr district, $114.23 in Skyland and $202.46 in Cave Rock-Uppaway.
The new rates are the result of consolidating operations and maintenance expenses among the three systems, but keeping each system’s existing debt separate.
“Being able to have the consolidation of O&M allows us to get an economy of scale,” Commissioner Nancy McDermid said. “That helps. Secondly, we can go for grant funding and things by showing larger numbers of users.”
Commissioners met Thursday to give staff new direction in the process, after having discussed the consolidation of the three Tahoe water systems and changes to monthly rates several times already this year.
ZWUD customers — whose monthly bills could rise more than 50 percent in 2015 — again spoke in opposition to consolidating expenses with the other water systems, saying that taking on another system’s higher financial commitments, specifically Cave Rock’s, is inequitable.
“The decision to pool these costs, to charge everyone the same rate, clearly represents unwarranted preferential treatment for the Cave Rock users at significant additional expense to the other two districts,” ZWUD customer and CPA Dick Barnard said. “I’m unable to find any compelling reason to implement such a rate shift.”
Monthly water bills for Cave Rock-Uppaway and Skyland would be significantly lower as a result of consolidating operations and maintenance expenses among the three systems.
Commissioner Barry Penzel said there is no simple solution.
“I’ve heard that both here and the Valley that there’s going to be a certain portion of residents that it’s unfair to,” he said, “and I wish that wasn’t the case.”
Before the new rates are set, the county needs to give public notice of the proposed changes. They will then come back to the board for a vote at their Aug. 21 meeting for possible adoption of a rate resolution.
The county is proposing new rates for the four Carson Valley water systems that would amount to a 3.25 percent increase over each of the next five years. That would send a typical bill from $65.31 a month in 2015 to $74.22 a month in 2019. Those bills would be higher in summer when water demand is greater.
The county is also proposing increasing sewer rates for its customers in the northern and west Valley. Those rates would go from $63.43 in 2015 to $72.08 in 2019 at 3.25 percent a year. Residential sewer rates are charged at a flat rate.
Not all of Douglas County’s municipal water or sewer customers are served by county systems. Most Valley residents get their water from systems operated by Gardnerville, Minden, Gardnerville Ranchos, or Indian Hills. Most sewer customers in the Valley are served by the Minden-Gardnerville Sanitation District or Indian Hills.