The Community Services District board is looking into charging more for the water residents use during the summer months and establishing pricing tiers so big water users will either pay a premium or mend their water-wasting ways.
The goal is to conserve water.
The district held the second in a series of pricing workshops this week. At the first workshop, in late July, a consultant discussed factors to be considered in setting rates. Directors and staff responded by selecting their top priorities -- efficient water use, spreading costs fairly, predictability of rates and maintaining the district's revenues.
The CSD diverts water from the Cosumnes River from November through May, and residents rely on water stored in Lake Calero during the dry months. With more than half the community's water used for watering landscape, this means peak demand for water coincides with the community's dependence on stored water.
It's a simple relationship -- lower water usage means higher lake levels during the dry months.
At present, of the three drinking water reservoirs, Calero, Chesbro and Clementia, only Calero is drawn down to meet the community's water needs. The drawdown is about 15 feet in normal years, according the CSD's Integrated Water Master Plan.
Fluctuations in lake levels became an issue during the ongoing debate over development. Ted Hart, a member of the Rancho Murieta Development Concerned Citizens Committee, has said at CSD meetings that lake levels are the key to getting buy-in from residents for conservation measures. Others insist lake drawdown shouldn't be allowed to exceed 18 inches.
The current rate structure is divided into commercial and residential rates. For residential customers, the base rate is $22.40 a month, while the base rate for commercial users varies. The volume rate for use over and above that is the same for both -- 0.0092 cents per cubic foot.
At Tuesday's workshop, the directors rejected using categories of lots to structure rates since the size difference between a circle lot and an estate lot can be eliminated through exclusive use agreements and landscaping permits.
Instead, the board looked at making average indoor usage a component of a residential rate structure, with usage above that level subject to a higher rate.
Seasonal rates are also being considered. Directors likened this alternative to winter and summer electric rates.
At the first workshop, financial analyst Shawn Koorn of HDR Engineering Inc. told directors that price hikes don't produce dramatic cutbacks in water use, and usage tends to creep back up over two or three years.
For maximum effectiveness, conservation pricing should be combined with an education effort, he said.
The board plans to include conservation pricing in the 2008-2009 budget.
The district has undertaken a feasibility study of recycled water use for landscape irrigation and this possibility will figure in future workshop discussions.
The next conservation pricing workshop is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 27 at the CSD Building.
The slides presented at Tuesday's workshop and a workshop schedule are available here.