City OKs water rate changes to promote the use of meters

Flat-rate charges would head higher

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comNovember 6, 2012 

SUN-STAR

Vote by mail technicians Jill McCabe, left, and Ginger Kahl sort vote by mail ballots by precincts in 2012 in the Elections Office in the Merced County Administration Building on M and 23rd streets.

MERCED SUN-STAR

— In an attempt to promote metered water, the Merced City Council voted unanimously to make changes to water rates over the next four years.

Under the proposed ordinance, water rates would decrease for customers with meters during the next year, and slightly increase for flat-rate users starting in 2014.

"I'm happy we're able to bring down these rates," said Councilman Josh Pedrozo. "I'm pretty proud of the system we have."

No one from the audience commented during a public hearing on the issue.

The city serves about 9,000 metered accounts, and about 10,000 flat-rate accounts. By 2025, all residential water use in California must be metered, under state law.

If the council approves the ordinance, residents receiving flat-rate water will see an increase in their utility bills.

The most common charge for flat-rate water use, which is determined by property size, is $35.14 a month for a property of less than 10,000 square feet.

If the council approves the ordinance, those flat-rate water users would see an increase to $36.74 a month.

The highest percentage increase for flat-rate water users would be for those with a property of 40,000 to 43,000 square feet. Those users would see a jump to $128.22 a month from $110.33.

Under the proposal, residents would see a decrease in the cost of metered-water use, which is determined by the diameter of the pipe delivering water to the residence and the amount of water used.

The most common pipe size is one inch, for which users have been charged $36.54 a month, plus $0.91 for each 100 cubic feet of water used after reaching 3,000 cubic feet. Those water users will see their bills drop to $35.03 a month, plus an overage charge of $0.87.

The city estimates the cost of having the city install a water meter at a residence is about $800.

Some council members have advocated making installation free. However, the City Council has said it will not take up the issue until the rate change has been approved.

Typically, there is about a 20 percent reduction in water usage when converting from unmetered to metered units, according to city officials.

Since 1992, state law has required that all residential construction includes installation of water meters.

Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or jsmith@mercedsunstar.com.

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