Water Conservation will be a constant struggle in the world as we know it. We encourage everyone to take an active part in conserving for the future. It should not be a feel good saying, it should be a way of life. Our company mission statement for the next 5 years: Changing the Face of Irrigation What will yours be?
An article worth sharing.
By KRISTEN TAKETA
Published: 29 August 2015 11:10 PM
Updated: 30 August 2015 12:50 AM
If you conserve water for a year and a half, you’d think you’d end up with a smaller water bill. But many residents north and east of Dallas are now seeing that, even after months of curbing water use, their costs are still going up because of a series of water rate increases over the past few years. And many cities will raise them again this fall. The pain of higher water rates has been particularly felt in recent months because, for the first time in a while, residents can and are using a lot more water. Residents can water their lawns twice a week instead of just twice a month after the North Texas Municipal Water District eased drought restrictions in May. They’re using more water and paying more for it. Richardson resident Elise Whitmire has already seen her water bill more than triple from $80 to $310 this month when she increased her water use. “I think nobody realized the rates went up in the past few years,” Whitmire said. “I’m just surprised they got away with raising it.” Cities north and east of Dallas are wrapping up deliberations on their next budgets, many of which include water and sewer rate increases of about 10 percent.
Officials say they have no choice but to collect more, as the NTMWD will again charge its member cities more to pay for needed infrastructure projects.
This year, it’s expected to be an 11.2 percent increase. The water district has already raised rates by at least 10 percent the last three years. “The only thing we have that we can do is increase the rate that we pass on to our customers,” said Karen Rhodes-Whitley, budget director for Plano, which has 10 percent increases in both water and sewer rates planned for its upcoming budget. In the past couple of years, cities such as McKinney have sometimes been able to absorb some of the increased water costs. But after being dealt rate increases from NTMWD in consecutive years, McKinney has run out of options, said finance director Rodney Rhodes. This is the first year McKinney will pass its entire 11 percent water cost increase to residents and businesses, he said. Interim City Manager Tom Muehlenbeck acknowledges that residents aren’t happy about the situation. “We discuss it every year. You ask them, ‘Well, what are the alternatives?’ And I think that’s when it comes home pretty quickly,” Muehlenbeck said.
The 13 member cities of the North Texas Municipal Water District are Allen, Farmersville, Forney, Frisco, Garland, McKinney, Mesquite, Princeton, Plano, Richardson, Rockwall, Royse City and Wylie. The cities are some of the fastest-growing in the country, and with more people comes a need for more water. Especially in a drought-stricken state like Texas, that water doesn’t come without investing hundreds of millions in mammoth new projects to provide more water, said NTMWD Executive Director Tom Kula. “It’s kind of a big duh. Of course rates are going to go up,” said Steve Massey, community services director for Allen, which will raise its water and sewer rate by about 6 percent next year. “What that does is help ensure the continuity of the water supply when we have a drought.”
The NTMWD is planning the $1 billion Lower Bois D’Arc Creek Reservoir, the first reservoir to be built in Texas in three decades. There’s also a $100 million pump station for the Trinity River and dredging projects for Lakes Lavon and Chapman. And the district is still paying for the $300 million pipeline extension needed after zebra mussels invaded Lake Texoma. On top of that, NTMWD and cities find themselves with less money because the water district had imposed years of water conservation restrictions to have enough water to supply. They saved water, but they also sold less water and earned less revenue to pay for needed costs like maintenance of aging infrastructure, said Don Magner, Richardson’s first assistant city manager. Richardson is expected to raise water rates 8 percent this year. And under NTMWD’s take-or-pay system, member cities always have to pay for a set amount of water, no matter how much they conserve. Cities have no choice except to raise water rates, but NTMWD doesn’t either.
At this rate, cities won’t stop seeing at least 10 percent rate increases for another five years, according to current NTMWD projections.
“We do recognize the challenges they are facing of less revenues,” Kula said. “At the same time we’ve got to continue to pay for and build projects in the future. It’s a conundrum. There’s no way getting around it.”