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Sunday, May 19, 2024

City, Occam detail potential water, sewer rate increase at public hearing

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During a public information meeting Thursday night, Occam|EC Consulting Engineers Inc. and the City of Artesia presented the findings of their recent water and sewer rate study.

Occam, which is under contract with the City of Artesia, also detailed their recommendations during the hearing. No members of the public were in attendance.

The recommendations for residential and commercial water included a 40-percent rate increase with an additional 5-percent increase for two subsequent years; two conservation-based surcharges – usage relative to the residential average and usage relative to winter average; and to eliminate a minimum block at a set rate.

Occam also recommends implementing a Water Waste Ordinance in 2016 as well as an education program, and revisiting rates in 2018 and adjusting accordingly in 2019.

Occam and the city state the objective of the rate hikes is to encourage water conservation practices and generate money for asset management and maintenance for the city’s water infrastructure. Conservation practices, they say, will not only be beneficial environmentally but will also assist with extending the life of the available resources, help manage demand, reduce capital investments needed to expand the supply side, and manage increases in water and sewer rates for customers.

“If the city were to conserve water by 25 percent, we can delay capital expenditures and acquiring certain water rights significantly,” said Scott Verhines, president of Occam|EC Consulting.

The annual average number of gallons used by all 4,042 households in Artesia is 13,962 gallons per month, with higher use in the summer and lower use in the winter. The 40-percent increase would mean an additional $.00182 per gallon, or $1.82 per 1,000 gallons. This means Artesians using around the citywide average could see a rate increase of approximately $25 on their monthly bill.

Verhines believes residents would be more inclined to conserve outside water use as opposed to inside water use.

“If you really crank up the rates, you’ll see a lot of conservation efforts,” said Verhines. “This is going on in Santa Fe these days; people basically don’t have yards anymore.”

The city and Occam plan to hold additional public meetings at dates and times to be determined. Following those, the recommendations will be brought to the city councilors for consideration and approval.

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