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Raleigh OKs Tiered Water Rates

Posted March 4, 2008

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— The City Council approved plans Tuesday to implement tiered water rates for customers on the municipal system next year.

The action was one of several water-related moves the council took. Others include laying the ground work to buy water from Cary, enlisting inspectors to check if local businesses have installed low-flow devices to conserve water and reviewing the city's car wash certification program.

Tiered rates would charge heavy water users more than average users. The city's current billing system cannot account for tiered rates, so upgraded software will be purchased this year to begin charging the tiered rates by next spring.

The rates that would be charged under the new system haven't been set.

City officials also plan to draw up a contract by April 1 that they could use in emergencies to purchase up to 2.5 million gallons of water a day from Cary. The unprecedented move would cost the city $10,000 a day and would need to be approved by the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources because Raleigh and Cary draw water from different river basins.

"There's nothing wrong with being prepared. There's nothing wrong with being prepared for this disaster," Councilman Thomas Crowder said.

Mayor Charles Meeker asked Monday for inspections of low-flow devices, saying continued conservation is necessary for the area to survive the ongoing drought.

The City Council in January urged all local residents and businesses to install low-flow shower heads, faucets and other devices by March 1 to reduce water consumption. Meeker said the inspections would help determine whether anyone was heeding that call.

If the inspections find widespread noncompliance with the move to low-flow devices, the City Council might need to make the move mandatory, Meeker said.

The voluntary inspections, which will start next week, will focus on office buildings, apartment complexes, hotels and fitness centers, he said, because the water users in those facilities aren't employees of the owner paying the water bill. Fifteen of each type of facility will be checked.

Since Raleigh imposed Stage 2 restrictions on Feb. 15, municipal water use has fallen about 7 to 8 percent, from about 40 million gallons a day to about 37 million gallons a day, he said. Under Stage 2, drinking water cannot be used for outdoor watering or pressure-washing, and dozens of car washes were closed.

A City Council committee next week is expected to look at tightening the standards officials use to certify car washes, allowing them to continue operating under Stage 2 restrictions. Car washes that use no more than 55 gallons of water for each wash can be certified, but officials said that amount is too much, considering the severity of the drought.

"Needless to say, that's not what anyone on the current council or former council had intended," Meeker said.

Also in the next two weeks, City Manager Russell Allen plans to submit his proposals for "Stage 3" water restrictions, along with outlining the conditions that would trigger such rules.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • nascar33 Mar 6, 2008

    Well Meeker manged to get his new tax, wonder how much of that will go straight to his pocket? The city of Raleigh has done nothing about infrastructure in the past couple of decades even thought the city has quadrupled in size. Instead they have squandered money on pet projects, like light rail that no one will use and Fayetteville St. Now the citizens will have to pay higher tax rates to cover those boondoggles. When will the people of Raleigh vote these people out of office?

  • readme Mar 6, 2008

    Why don't they just jack up the rates for everyone and make you pay the same for the first gallon and the 1000th you use. That makes the most sense to me and is fair and cheap to implement. Water is a natural resource, and I expect to pay more for it when it's in short supply.

  • JayJay Mar 6, 2008

    Yet one more bad idea from a local government that sold water to every small town it could find while at the same time thousands of new homes were being built. And did they look at upgrading the infrastructure to handle this? No, they just keep on adding. Now it's a problem and it's our fault? VOTE THEM OUT.

  • BULLDOZER Mar 5, 2008

    The higher rates of course will only be paid by the rich who use more water. Right??? Once again, let's penalize the market movers and the people who pay most of the taxes in our society. Great move Mr. meeker.

  • Guy Mar 5, 2008

    Mjjunk... Right on the nail. I delivered papers in the blue blood area of Raleigh during a drought and some of the well-off folks ran their auto-water systems all night and water going down the storm drains. I delivered 7day per and this was every other night. Just say No.

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxx Mar 5, 2008

    Mjjunk, I'm with you. I'm afraid that the regular joes are going to get penalized while the biggest water hogs with the most money won't mind paying the extra cost.

    When the lakes eventually fill up again and water is plentiful, will we still pay the tiered rates and be penalized for using more than our drought ration of water?

  • mjjunk Mar 5, 2008

    I just hope that they come up with a tiered program that charges people with normal usage normal rates, people with minor usage cheaper rates, and those with excessive usage the highest rates. It only makes sense instead of penalizing us regular joes for wanting to take a shower everyday. I don't think I have any excesses in my water use, but under the current guidelines, I will probably be charged double what I normally pay. It only seems fair to first charge the people and businesses with faucets that don't shut off the higher rates. If this doesn't satisfy the cost versus the expense and provide for people to have an incentive for reducing their use, then modify where the thresholds are for the various rate tiers.

  • Mr. Keeping It Real Mar 5, 2008

    I hope other cities/towns follow Raleigh's lead in the tiered water rates. Some of us (and you know who you are) do our part in conserving water only to drive by several homes in the neighborhood that are watering their lawns constantly and watching half of it be sprayed on the street. Come on people - do you want a green lawn or to be able to flush your commodes?

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxx Mar 5, 2008

    Harvey, you are right, all the money in the world won't make Falls Lake fill up until it rains. My concern about the tiered system is that the people with the most money might have the mindset that as long as they are willing to pay for it, they'll use as much water as they want. Remember last summer when they were asking us to minimize our electrical consumption and some people said that as long as they paid their bill they would use as much electricity as they wanted to?

  • Harvey Mar 5, 2008

    You peolpe make me sick. As conservatives (and you know who you are) this pay-as-you-use-it system should make you very happy. And yet, no matter what the council does, you find a reason to whine and complain. The tiered system makes some sense. However, you can charge $1,000,000 per gallon, it still won't make it rain or magically fill Falls Lake. Conservation is really the best method, but too bad they didn't think of it early enough to get it right. They are now scrambling and keep making it worse.