Denver Water Board taking comments on rates adjustment for 2012

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Ellen Cinchock):

Denver Water is launching a public comment period on proposed rates for 2012. The Board of Water Commissioners will vote on rates during its Sept. 28 meeting.

The proposal, a 5.5 percent increase for all customers, provides further funding for the utility’s capital projects, which include upgrades to aging infrastructure. Under this proposal, the average residential Denver customer would pay about $19 more per year.

The increase is about half of what the Board had anticipated last year. In 2011, Denver Water reprioritized projects that can be delayed a few years and implemented additional efficiency measures throughout the organization.

“We are keenly aware of our need to spend our customers’ dollars wisely,” said Angela Bricmont, director of finance. “That’s why we’ve reduced our budget for 2012 and have launched an organization-wide efficiency initiative to keep us as lean as possible.”

Next year, the utility’s major projects include protecting the watershed through its From Forests to Faucets Partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, expanding the recycled water system and stepping up the pipe rehabilitation and replacement program.

Denver Water owns and maintains more than 3,000 miles of distribution pipe — enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York — as well as 12 raw water reservoirs, 22 pump stations and four treatment plants. Ongoing rehabilitation and replacement of infrastructure is needed throughout the water distribution system, much of which dates back to post-World War II installation or earlier.

Denver Water plans to expand its system capacity over the next decade to meet the future needs of its customers by expanding the utility’s recycled water system, enlarging Gross Reservoir by 18,000 acre-feet, developing gravel pits that store reusable water, and exploring ways to work with other water providers to bring more supplies to its system.

The effects of the proposed changes on customer bills would vary depending upon the amount of water the customer uses and whether the customer lives in Denver or is served by a suburban distributor under contract with Denver Water. The more customers use, the more they will pay. Under the current rate proposal, average Denver residential customers would see their bills increase by $19.43 a year — an average of $1.62 per month. Typical suburban residential customers served by Denver Water would see an increase of $34.11 per year — an average of $2.84 per month. Commercial, industrial and government customers also would see a 5.5 percent increase.

If the proposed adjustments are approved, they would take effect January 2012. Rates for Denver Water customers living inside the city would remain among the lowest in the metro area, while rates for Denver Water residential customers in the suburbs would still fall at or below the median among area water providers.

“Denver Water has a long history of sound financial management, fiscal responsibility and efficiency,” Bricmont said. “Our AAA bond rating is a reflection of that. It allows us to build projects at lower cost — savings we are able to pass along to our customers.”

The water department is funded through rates and new tap fees, not taxes. Its rates are designed to recover the costs of providing reliable, high-quality water service and to encourage efficiency by charging higher prices for increased water use. A significant portion of Denver Water’s annual costs do not vary with the amount of water sold and include maintenance of the system’s distribution pipes, reservoirs, pump stations and treatment plants. Denver Water also examines and adjusts its capital plan as necessary each year.

The Board is expected to vote on the proposed changes on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Please send public comment to dbwc@denverwater.org or call 303-628-6320. Public comment also will be taken during the Board meeting at 9 a.m. on Sept. 28. For more information about the Board meetings, visit www.denverwater.org/AboutUs/PublicWaterBoardMeetings.

More coverage from KWGN.tv:

Denver Water has proposed raising rates by 5.5% to help fund construction projects, including ones to upgrade aging infrastructure. That means the average residential customer would pay about $19 more per year. If approved, the rate hike would take effect in January.

More Denver Water coverage here.

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