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Five Months After Griggs Suggested Charging Water Hogs More, An Analysis and Options

From Thursday's council briefing on upping Dallas's residentai water rates for those who use the most H20
From Thursday's council briefing on upping Dallas's residentai water rates for those who use the most H20

In September, as the council was putting the finishing touches on the current budget, Scott Griggs and Angela Hunt suggested the city revisit its resident water rate structure -- specifically, they said, the city up the amount charged to those who use the most water. Insisted the council member from Oak Cliff, "Ten percent of our resident use one-third of our water. Our tier structure right now is our largest crop in Dallas is St. Augustine, and we're subsidizing that." Hunt concurred, but Mayor Mike Rawlings was skeptical, saying, "Conservation is one thing, revenue generation is another thing, and punishing people is another thing." At which point City Manager Mary Suhm said she'd have her staff crunch the numbers, and that she's come back to council early this year with a look-see at what could be done.

On Thursday, during a specially called meeting of the council's Budget, Finance, and Audit Committee, Dallas Water Utilities Director Jody Puckett will deliver that analysis, conducted by consulting firm Black & Veatch, which has also suggested two options for increasing rates. Those docs are below.

But long story short: In 2002, the last time residential rates were reviewed, the city added a fourth tier to rates in the hopes that charging more to folks who used more than 15,000 a month would encourage conservation. (If memory serves, the average Dallas homeowner is billed for 100,000 gallons used per year ... unless you're, say, Tom Hicks.) But per the chart you see above, the city's not meeting its conservation goals; as Hunt said in September, "Our water conservation work has been successful, but we could do so much more." According to the analysis, 26 percent of the city's residents use more than 15,000 gallons a month.

So, says Black & Veatch, the city could always add a fifth tier. But where to draw the line?

Per Option No. 1, it could start at the 30,000-gallon mark, which would include 14.2 percent of the city's customers. Or, per Option No. 2, it could start a little lower, at the 25,000-gallon mark, which would impact close to 18 percent of Dallas's lawns. The briefing doesn't suggest a new rate structure, and says that either one of those two choices "may reduce overall water consumption by 0.3 percent."

But the briefing doesn't seem entirely optimistic about the benefits of adding a fifth tier. It says that doing so "requires additional costs to revise rate structure in billing system," "could result in increased customer call volume and customer billing complaints" and "will require a few years to determine actual customer usage patterns."BFA_ResidentialRate_020912


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