Rate increases surprise some water users

Water users in Minden and Gardnerville may feel a slight pinch on their utility bills, but for different reasons.

Nearly 500 Gardnerville Town Water Co. customers moved to a metered system in January may have seen dramatic shifts in their bills this summer.

One former fixed rate water user, for example, complained about a $400-plus bill. As it turns out, the customer had used about 250,000 gallons of water over a two-month period. The average customer uses about 20,000 gallons every 60 days.

"That's about 2,000 gallons of water a day he was putting on his lawn," Clendenen said. "He wasn't happy about it."

The reason, officials say, is summer watering habits.

In some cases, customers who were used to paying a flat rate of $21.50 per month, received water bills from $200 to $400, said Larry Clendenen, general manager for the water company.

"A lot of people don't stop and realize how much water they're putting on their lawns," Clendenen said. "They were used to paying the flat rate, so when they received their bills for this cycle, it came as a shock."

For metered customers, it's natural to see an increase during summer if they are watering their lawns regularly.

For a residential home with about 1,000 square feet of lawn, the average bill runs between $60 to $70, he said.

The rate drops substantially during fall, winter and early spring because not as much water is being used, Clendenen said.

In a random survey of 67 residential homes, Clendenen said the average water bill for Gardnerville Town Water Company customers comes out to about $31 a month.

Beginning in January, the water company required every user to be on a metered system. In 1993, the water company began putting new homes on a metered system, in which water users pay for the amount of water they use. Some 490 water users were on the fixed rate system, which was converted to meters Jan. 1.

Water bills are sent out every other month with a billing cycle of 60 days. Homeowners pay a flat $16 service charge and $1.06 per thousand gallons of water used up to 20,000 gallons.

After 20,000 gallons, the rate is $1.44 per thousand gallons.

"The intention of getting everyone on the meter is for conservation reasons. Users should pay for the water they use," Clendenen said.

While Gardnerville Water Company hasn't had a rate hike since 1989, those who were on the flat rate may have felt the change in their pocketbooks with this last bill.

As of July 1, Minden water users noticed a 16 percent rate hike on their fixed water bill, from $20.52 to $23.80. The town board agreed to the rate hike in March.

The increase was made to counter recent electric rate hikes imposed by Sierra Pacific, said Sheila Byington, office manager for the town of Minden.

Three public hearings were held before the rate changed. Some 1,300 residents are tied into the Minden water system.

Meanwhile, Water users in Gardnerville Ranchos and Indian Hills have not had rate hikes, and there are no plans for them in the future, officials with both districts said.


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