City council will review water rate increases

Proposed water rate increases would charge the city's highest water users a higher rate. (Shannon Cornman)

Proposed water rate increases would charge the city’s highest water users a higher rate. (Shannon Cornman)

Construction projects to expand water capacity and a desire to encourage conservation are behind a proposed water rate increase in Oklahoma City, city officials said Tuesday.

During a meeting of the city council, Marsha Slaughter, utilities director for OKC, said the proposed rate increases would include a higher rate for the largest water users.

“This [proposal] includes a block structure to help encourage water conservation,” Slaughter said.

If approved, Oklahoma City residents would see the base rate per 1,000 gallons of water rise from $2.65 to $2.73 next year. Another round of increases would go into effect in 2016 and in 2017 where it would be set at $2.89, resulting in a 9 percent increase.

However, once residents hit the 10,000 gallon mark before the end of the month, which nearly half of all homes do at least once during the year, each additional 1,000 gallons used would be charged at a higher rate. The 2017 rate for each 1,000 gallons used past the 10,000 gallon mark would be $3.50.

Similar rate increases have also been proposed for non-residential customers.

The proposed increases were introduced to the council Tuesday and a public hearing is scheduled for the Aug. 26 council meeting.

“We face a large capital program over the next several years,” Slaughter said in addressing the need for higher rates.

Oklahoma City has spent nearly $614 million dollars on infrastructure for water and wastewater over the past five years. However, the city plans to spend close to $2.2 billion over the next decade, which includes building a new pipeline to Lake Atoka 100 miles southeast of OKC.

“The Atoka pipeline is the major driver here,” Slaughter said.

Rate increase have also been proposed for builders. For example, the city currently charges a builder $415 for each home or building in need of a 1 inch water line. However, the proposal would increase that rate to $2,084 by 2017. While the hike is steep, it keeps OKC below other cities like Wichita, Albuquerque and Denver, city officials said.

Utility officials have been working on proposed rate increases for nearly two years.

Ben Felder

Ben is a news reporter covering local politics, City Hall and education in urban Oklahoma City. He lives in OKC with his wife, Lori, and son, Satchel. Ben holds a masters in new media journalism from Full Sail University and is an OKC transplant from Kansas City, Mo. Twitter: @benfelder_okg

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