DeKalb residents could see water bills double

Source
AJC.com
By Megan Matteucci

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A DeKalb County family’s water and sewer bill could increase 110 percent from 2009 to 2014 — and even more if the state declares a drought.

The upgrades are needed to help pay for $1.79 billion in capital improvements to DeKalb’s water system, Watershed Management director Francis Kung’u said.

“Our water and sewer infrastructure is aging,” Kung’u told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “If we don’t do this, it will continue to degrade. We will get more breaks and won’t have enough capacity of wastewater treatment. We won’t be able to support growth of the county.”

The county is proposing to raise water and sewer rates 16 percent each year through fiscal year 2014.

The County Commission already approved a 16 percent rate increase for fiscal years 2009 and 2010, but is now looking at the additional increases to cover the plant repairs.

For a family that uses 4,000-20,000 gallons a month, it means an increase of 110 percent in their bill. The maximum bimonthly bill that was $165 in 2009 would be $347 in 2014.

But some county commissioners fear that may be too much for some residents in DeKalb, where 10.4 percent are unemployed and 68 percent of students in the school system qualify for free or reduced meals.

“When you look at the proposed rate increases, it’s got me thinking about reality,” Commissioner Lee May said. “Regardless if you call it a tax or a fee, the realization is that it comes out of everyone’s pocket.”

A vote will likely not be taken until next month at the earliest, Commissioner Larry Johnson said.

The commission is waiting for more information on the water department’s staffing and budget before agreeing to approve the rates. Ninety of the department’s employees are leaving at the end of the month through an early retirement program, but the department wants to fill 70 of those positions.

Those workers are needed for daily water main breaks and other repair work, said Ted Rhinehart, deputy chief operating officer of infrastructure.

“Those are the workers who do the day-to-day functions,” he said. “It’s so we don’t make a bad situation worse. We know we have a lot of pipes to repair.”

That repair list could get much worse if the county doesn’t upgrade the water system, Kung’u said.

The $1.79 billion covers 83 different projects, including expanding the county’s two wastewater plants and adding more clean storage wells at the county’s one drinking water plant. DeKalb also must fund 48 percent of all upgrades to Atlanta’s R.M. Clayton Wastewater Treatment Plant, which the county shares with the city, Kung’u said.

DeKalb plans to issue $350 million in bonds this year, $733 million in fiscal year 2012 and $277 million in fiscal year 2014.

In addition to the water system upgrades, the increased rates are also needed to help offset a drop in revenue from mandatory water restrictions, Kung’u said.

In 2009, the drought restrictions caused DeKalb water use to drop about 7.5 percent, which resulted in a $28.3 million loss. The county expects to lose about $34.3 million this year because of the water restrictions.

To help prevent that problem in future years, the water department is proposing to raise rates even more if the state declares a drought. Kung’u is asking commissioners to add on a 5 percent increase if the governor declares a Level 2 drought, a 10 percent increase for a Level 3 drought and a 15 percent increase for a Level 4 drought.

“Over the next several years, everybody else will be adjusting rates,” Kung’u said. “But for now, we are still below average in the metro region.”

That region average includes the city of Atlanta, which has water rates that are about double the surrounding counties because of its sewer project, Kung’u said.

Atlanta has approved a 56 percent increase from 2008-2012. The rates are supposed to go up about 12 percent each year until June 2012. The city is also considering adding a stormwater fee, which could be as high as $120 a year for some homes.

Fulton approved a 15 percent water hike in May 2008 and has no plans to raise rates, according to Public Works Director Angela Parker.

Cobb is expected to reapprove water and sewer increases in November. Starting in January, water rates will go up 8 percent, and sewer rates will increase 4 percent.

Gwinnett County passed a resolution last year establishing water and sewer rate increases each January through 2015. Customers began paying $4.11 per 1,000 gallons of water this year, up 25 cents from 2009. The rate goes up to $4.38 in 2011. The same is true for sewer service. Gwinnett customers now pay $5.38 per 1,000 gallons, up 47 cents from last year. The rate rises to $5.89 at the first of next year.

Clayton County has no plans to raise water rates. In August 2009, it raised water rates by 6 percent for residents who use more than 3,000 gallons a month, said Clayton County Water Authority spokeswoman Suzanne Brown.

Cherokee County does not anticipate a rate increase, but the Woodstock City Council is considering raising rates as much as 13 percent.

Staff writers Jeffry Scott, Christopher Quinn, Janel Davis and Patrick Fox contributed to this article.

Water usage

DeKalb customers who use 0-4,000 gallons a month

Number of customers: 51,749

Percent of total customers: 32 percent

2010 bimonthly bill: $46

2012 bimonthly bill: $62

2014 bimonthly bill: $83

DeKalb customers who use 4,001-20,000 gallons a month

Number of customers: 100,723

Percent of total customers: 62 percent

2010 bimonthly bill: $192

2012 bimonthly bill: $258

2014 bimonthly bill: $347

*Bill amount is the maximum

Current average monthly water and sewer bill for a customer who uses 6,000 gallons a month

DeKalb: $51

Clayton: $53

Cobb: $54

Fulton: $56

Gwinnett: $60

Cherokee: $61

City of Atlanta: $121

Source: DeKalb County Watershed Management Department

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The drought is officially over. We can go back to our old ways…

The drought is over. 

That’s the word from Georgia’s top environmental officials. After years of water restrictions and conservation programs, water levels across the state appear to be getting back to normal.

The state climatologist says Georgia experienced the wettest spring season on record in 115 years.  In fact, Governor Sonny Perdue says heavy rainfall in recent months helped the entire state emerge from the worst drought categories, prompting restrictions on outdoor water use to be lifted for the first time since 2006. 

So, should we still conserve water? Absolutely.

Why should we conserve water?

 There are many good reasons to conserve water.

Water conservation can help meet future needs.

Water is a precious resource – our lives depend on it. In Georgia, the average consumption (residential, commercial and industrial, not agricultural) is 168 gallons per day, 10% higher than the national average of 153 gallons a day. An adult needs less than a gallon per day for drinking purposes, but 101 gallons per day are used in residential applications.

(Source: http://www.p2ad.org/files_pdf/cwmbs.pdf

Georgia’s population growth is among the most rapid in the nation. In the last decade, the state’s population has increased by more than 1.7 million. If current trends continue, Georgia’s population will reach 11.9 million in 2025. A doubling of demand for water over the next twenty years is highly probable. Given that drought-prone Georgia already uses a relatively high share of its land for residential purposes, future population growth will have a meaningful impact upon the supply of fresh water. As more and more faucets drain the aquifers, or underground reservoirs, urban sprawl paves over the land and short-circuits its absorption properties. Georgia’s fast-growing cities face water shortages by 2020 unless local utilities find new supplies.

Saving water will save you money.

Conserving water saves you money! Not only will your water bill go down, but as you heat less water, your gas or energy bill will also decline. If your whole community conserves, you will also pay less fees for water-related services. Water conserving communities will not need to pay as much to develop new supplies and expand or upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure.

 The City of Atlanta has approved a 12.5% rate increase effective July 1, 2009 and another 12% increase in 2010.  

Approved Water and Sewer Rates City of Atlanta

Water conservation helps preserve the environment.

Quite simply, water is the essential component of all life. It comprises 70% of the Earth’s surface and 75% of the human body. Of that 70% of surface water, only 1% is actually drinkable. Water is needed to keep the ecosystem in balance. Clouds need water to make rain. Plants need water to grow. Animals depend on plants for the oxygen they produce and the food they provide. When one element of the chain is compromised, the entire system is thrown out of whack. Roughly 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming or hosting aquatic life. 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are discharged into US waters annually.

 There are many obvious reasons for us to protect our water supply, but the most important point to remember is that water is absolutely essential to all living things. Educate yourself, dedicate yourself, and you can make a difference.

(Source: http://www.luminant.com/scholar/docs/EnvironmentWater.pdf)

A significant level of water conservation can be achieved without major changes in lifestyle. Simply watering landscapes properly and utilizing efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances in the home can reduce the per-capita water use by 25 percent.

Is a rainwater collecting system a good investment?

I  have permission to share an interesting article, written by Bob Drew, owner of ECOVIE Rainwater Collection Systems

Well, we’ve had 3 straight months of above average rainfall.  If June is also above normal, the drought will be declared over and the watering ban may be lifted.  But, we are now moving into the drier months and it is possible we will remain under watering restrictions.   Even so, one may wonder what normal Atlanta rainfall conditions mean with regard to the benefits of a rainwater collection system.  Rainwater collection systems in the form of multi-thousand gallon tanks and cisterns are popping up all over metro Atlanta in response to the lower than average rainfall and low Lake Lanier levels the last 3 years.  Are these systems still a good investment if there are no watering restrictions and rainfall is normal?  The answer is yes.  In fact, some of the reasons for having a rainwater collection system for your home actually become more important when it rains more.  Consider that:

  1.  With no watering ban, we can once again water turf and gardens with our automatic irrigation systems.  Feeding these systems with city water can cost hundreds of dollars per month.  Feeding your irrigation with rainwater is nearly free and will definitely save you money.
  2. Even under normal rainfall conditions, we will likely experience several periods of more than 10 days without appreciable rain this summer.  A rainwater collection system bridges across these periods to keep your lawn and garden lush and vibrant.   Even though rain itself nourishes our lawns and gardens, we will still need to water to keep plants at their optimal best.
  3. When it rains a lot, rainwater collection systems prevent heavy erosion and storm water runoff problems.  By collecting water and using it later, soils can better soak up water and replenish the ground water supply.  For those who think drilling a well is the answer, keep in mind that irrigating with well water has a net negative effect on ground water supply.
  4. The possibility of using rainwater year around for indoor uses such as laundering and toilet flushing becomes much more attractive the more it rains.  With additional filtration and UV disinfection, the Georgia Plumbing Code allows use of rainwater indoors for non-potable uses.  The typical family of four uses around 50,000 gallons per year for these uses, so the cost savings and other benefits can be substantial. 

And whether there’s a drought or not, collecting rainwater is a smart choice to help alleviate Atlanta’s ongoing water supply challenges.  This may be as good a time as ever to consider rainwater collection to protect your landscape investment use less city water.

Free High Efficiency Toilet in Claremont, CA on June 27, 2009

view details here http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_iFIDdxibrTg/SiKplZzmRfI/AAAAAAAADlo/CkBaewwp2XQ/s800-h/lowflow.jpg

http://www.ci.claremont.ca.us/index.cfm

Saving water in times of drought

Saving water in times of drought

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Conservation efforts slow to slake consumers’ thirst

Conservation efforts slow to slake consumers’ thirst

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SAWS – San Antonio Water System – Water conservation Program and Rebate

SAWS has developed these water-wise programs and rebates to encourage conservation by saving you a lot of green for residential as well as commercial customers.

If you’re a homeowner and a SAWS customer, you can get these great rebates by taking steps to conserve water:

With Commercial customers accounting for 10% of the customer base and 40% of SAWS’ annual water sales, there is great potential for water savings through their commercial conservation programs:

Commercial Large Scale Retrofit Rebate
SAWS provides an economic incentive in the form of rebates to those customers that choose to convert to water-saving equipment and practices.

Commercial Toilet Retrofit Program
Choose from one, or any combination of our program options designed to significantly reduce your company’s water bill and overall water consumption.

Commercial Cooling Tower Audit
SAWS is offering a free audit that can help you improve the performance of your cooling tower.

Restaurant Certified WaterSaver Program
Retrofitting your business with water-conserving products can lower your operating costs. SAWS is offering you free retrofits and installation to help you become a Certified WaterSaver!

Golf Fore SA
Golf Fore SA is the first program of its kind to help golf courses develop conservation and community-oriented practices and provide certification for their achievement.

In addition to the above mentioned programs, SAWS also offers the following programs:

Season to Save Community Challenge
Did you know you can raise money for your neighborhood group or non-profit association and save thousands of gallons of water at the same time? 

Seasonal Irrigation Program
The amount of water your lawn needs is probably less than you think. But how do you know how much it takes to keep it healthy? Just follow the “Seasonal Irrigation Program” or SIP advice each week.

Home Water Conservation Audit
Want to keep money from going down the drain? Get a free audit, and learn how! By performing a a simple water audit you can save water and money.

Why Conserve?

The Edwards Aquifer is the primary source of water for Central Texas. It stretches for over 8,000 sq. miles only 500 feet below the surface and supplies over 1.3 million people with high-quality drinking water. That’s why it’s so important to increase our efforts in protecting and conserving San Antonio’s number one natural resource.

SAWS is a permitted water system with overall regional limits to pumping. Translated into English, this means they’re only allowed so much water from the Edwards Aquifer. That’s why it’s so important to save it. Conservation is the cheapest source of water. Water we save is water we don’t have to buy. So it’s important we do everything we can to decrease our water consumption. Plumbing fixture retrofits, watersaver landscapes, and improved habits are all things that will help us make low water use a part of every person’s everyday life.

Please visit the San Antonio Water System’s website to view the information posted above as well as a lot more helpful info, tips and advise on how to conserve water.

The San Antonio Water System is truly a Leader in the US for implementing Water Conservation Programs. Lets ask our communities to adopt some (or all) of these programs to ensure the availability of clean drinking water in the future.