Local News

Orange H2O Customers Get Tighter Rules, Higher Fees

Posted February 28, 2008
Updated February 29, 2008

— Orange Water and Sewer Authority officials voted unanimously Thursday to tighten water restrictions and implement surcharges on both residential and commercial customers.

Officials declared a Stage 3 Water Shortage, effective from March 1. OWASA is urging residential customers to voluntarily reduce their daily usage to no more than 35 gallons per person, while commercial and business customers are being asked to cut their usage to 20 percent of their pre-drought consumption levels.

OWASA officials said they expect water rate surcharges and increases to encourage customers to meet those goals.

A 125 percent surcharge will be applied to any residential customer that uses 3,000 or more gallons in any billing period. That surcharge goes up the more water a customer uses.

Peak rates for non-residential customers will go into effect early. A 125 percent water surcharge will also be added to commercial and business customers' bills.

All the rate increases and surcharges go into effect March 17.

As of Tuesday, OWASA said, its supply in the Cane Creek Reservoir and University Lake was 40 percent full, creating a five-month supply at the current rate of demand of 9 million gallons per day. If daily usage drops to about 7 million, that supply will extend out to slightly more than six months.

Ed Kerwin, OWASA executive director, said the system has never been this low at the end of February – normally a high-level time – since OWASA began keeping detailed records in 1980.

Demand from all users in December 2007 and January 2008 dropped an average of 10 percent from the same period a two-month period a year ago.

Single-family residences cut demand by 14.2 percent, commercial customers by 9.7 percent, and multifamily customers by 4.7 percent. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill – OWASA's single largest water customer – cuts its usage by 5 percent during that period.

Landscapers, cleaning businesses and others that use large amounts of water can get reclaimed water in bulk at OWASA's Mason Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Users can pick up 250 gallons at a time for irrigation, decoration and other non-drinking uses. They must attend a mandatory one-time training class given by OWASA staff.

If the water supply rises to 60 percent of capacity by April 1, OWASA will consider downgrading to Stage 2 restrictions. If water supply reaches more than 70 percent, officials might drop back to Stage 1.

OWASA serves 80,000 customers in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.


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  • davido Feb 29, 2008

    One problem I have is that rates are only measured to the nearest 1000 gallons. If I'm using 2501 gal per month am I getting rounded up to 3000?

    Family of 4, and we used 3000 last month.

  • Chapel Hill Conservative Feb 29, 2008

    So, if it's a monthly billing cycle, then...

    1 person in a household... (35 gal. x 1 person) x 30 days = 1,050 gallons per month per household

    3 people in a household... (35 gal. x 3 people) x 30 days = 3,150 gallons per month per household

    And according to the article: "A 125 percent surcharge will be applied to any residential customer that uses 3,000 or more gallons in any billing period. That surcharge goes up the more water a customer uses."

    So, when you do the math, if you have 3 or more people living under your roof, you're automatically looking at getting hit with the "excess" surcharge every month. Families (especially larger ones) are getting the shaft while singles have nothing to worry about. Sucks to be you guys.

  • Stopped Counting Feb 29, 2008

    OWASA has had a monthly billing cycle.
    In Durham most residences have a bimonthly cyle and most businesses have a monthly billing cycle.

  • beachboater Feb 29, 2008

    It's scary as you know what to even be having this discussion.

  • TheAdmiral Feb 29, 2008

    When I was living in Hillsborough it was $97 a month in the best of times.

  • Chapel Hill Conservative Feb 29, 2008

    For those of you on city water, exactly how long is a "billing period?"