Water rates approved to accolades
Approval of a change in water rates for Douglas County customers drew rare applause at a county commission meeting on Monday.
The new water rates will decrease average monthly water bills for all but the highest water users in the near term.
According to Public Works Director Phil Ritger, the rate structure will raise enough money to operate the county’s water systems while reducing increases on customers who use average and below average amounts of water through 2024.
Those water customers using more than 30,000 gallons of water a month will definitely see an increase in their bills, which will give them an incentive to cut back.
Ritger told commissioners at a June 20 meeting that the average customer uses 16,000 gallons a month, with the average going up to 22,000 gallons in the summer.
“This rate structure will actually lower the rates for the average customer,” he said.
He pointed out that 27,000 gallons is an acre foot.
The county operates seven separate water systems, including four in Carson Valley and three at Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe residents were paying some of the highest water rates in the county, with Cave Rock customers paying $195.37 a month, while Zephyr Cove residents were paying $99.91 a month.
Cave Rock residents sued the county in 2016 for $3 million, contending they were be charged for work in neighboring Uppaway. They agreed to drop the lawsuit in 2018 if the county consolidated its water system.
Under the new rates, a Carson Valley customer averaging 16,000 gallons per year would pay $67.60 a month. That rate will be lower in the summer and higher in the winter because all Valley customers are on meters.
Tahoe customers would pay the same amount, but add $20 to their bills to pay for capital improvements required for those water systems.
Even with the surcharge, rates for Cave Rock and Zephyr residents would drop to $87.60 a month on average.
The rates affect the 3,500 customers of the county’s water system, which serves Cave Rock, Zephyr Cove and Skyland at Lake Tahoe. The county also serves Johnson Lane, Genoa, Jobs Peak and Sheridan Acres. Most residents in Douglas County are served by one of the improvement districts, Minden or the Gardnerville Water Co.
The county consolidated its eight water systems into two for accounting purposes in 2013.
Negotiations to physically connect the east and west Valley water systems are underway. Otherwise the county systems are isolated from one another.