Greeley Water closing in on new rate structure to encourage conservation

Greeley in 1870 via the Greeley Historical Society and the Denver Public Library
Greeley in 1870 via the Greeley Historical Society and the Denver Public Library

From The Greeley Tribune (Catharine Sweeney):

Greeley water officials are continuing to push a new water rate system that would provide residents with incentives to cut their consumption, and local leaders are warming up to the idea.

The Water and Sewer Board went over the plan again during its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Today, Greeley residents pay a flat rate for water that doesn’t take into account how much they use, and regionally, that’s rare.

“Really, Greeley and Loveland are the only cities left in northern Colorado that have uniform rates,” said Eric Reckentine, the department’s deputy director of water resources.

A few cities, such as Aurora and Colorado Springs, charge their residents in uniform blocks for usage.

Greeley officials find the blocks arbitrary. Someone who irrigates a lawn that’s 1,000 square feet obviously will use more water to do so than someone who owns a 500-square-foot lawn.

Greeley is opting for a tiered water rate based on a water budget, or calculated allowance, water planners give residents. Planners use the number of people in a household and the amount of land the resident could irrigate to decide how many gallons a month each home should use. They allot 55 gallons per person per day. They give a little more than two gallons per square foot of irrigable land.

A four-person family on an average lot would get 21,000 gallons per month.

Under the new plan, the family would pay $3.88 per 1,000 gallons within the budget, and the rate would increase incrementally as the water usage exceeded the budget.

There are four tiers. If residents are within budget, using 100 percent or less of the allotment, they get the reduced rate. If use falls between 100 and 130 percent of the allotment, it’s considered inefficient use, and it will cost $4.74 for each 1,000 gallons in that range. If residents keep overusing and get into the 130-150 percent of their allotment range, they’ll pay $6.04 for that segment. If they get past 150 percent of their allotment, that will cost $8.62 for every 1,000 gallons.

The extra cost didn’t come in increments when city officials first heard the plan in February. Anything outside the budgeted water was charged at the highest tier a resident hit.

“You paid that amount for all of it,” Mayor Tom Norton said during an interview. “It was kind of more of a punishment.”

Greeley and water department officials said the goal was to recover costs for overuse, which is about 300 acre-feet every year. An acre-foot of water is how much an average family uses in a year.

“That’s several million dollars worth of water,” Water Board Chairman Harold Evans said.

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