Water conservation important as Lacey water rates increase

The City of Lacey has developed a $46 million capital improvement plan over the next five years dedicated to the city’s water system.

City officials said major projects to upgrade and expand the city’s supply and delivery of water to its 68,000 customers are necessary to ensure that the city can reliably provide ample clean, high quality water for decades to come.

After years of complex negotiations and studies to secure additional water rights from the state Department of Ecology, it now appears that Lacey has enough water in the pipeline to meet the needs of its current and future customers.

But the new era of reliable water supplies comes with a price.

The city proposes to raise water rates in each of the next five years. The rate hikes for a typical city water customer will range from $1.68 per month in 2013 to $2.17 per month in 2017.

The end result: Water rates for a city residential customer using 900 cubic-feet of water will climb from $25.95 per month in 2012 to $35.55 in 2017. While the rate increases are spread out over five years to avoid sticker shock, they represent a 37 percent increase in a customer’s water utility bill. Water rates for Lacey water users outside the city limits are slightly higher.

The city also intends to sell municipal bonds, and it has applied for a $15 million Public Works Trust Fund loan to reduce the overall impact on water rates.

The city uses a consumption-based, tiered rate structure that means as more water is used, the additional volumes of water cost more. In other words, someone using 600 cubic feet of water per month pays about a penny for eight gallons. Someone using twice that much pays a penny for every four gallons for the extra 600 cubic feet.

So it pays to participate in one or more of the water conservation programs the city offers.

The city is conducting two more public meetings this month to inform Lacey water customers about the changes planned for the water utility and the impacts those changes will have on ratepayers.

Lacey water customers: Now is the time to become better informed about your water system. The public meetings are 5-7 p.m. Sept. 11 and Sept. 19 at Lacey City Hall, 420 College St. S.E., Lacey.