More water savings could mean more rate changes

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Major water savings continues in Albuquerque and once again, it could mean higher water rates in the next year.

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority says customer have saved more than a half billion gallons of water just this year alone.

While they welcome less water use, the Water Authority says it also means less revenue, and come 2015, that likely means another rate increase on top of one that’s about to hit customers next month.

The Water Authority says 2014’s wet summer has been a big factor in saving water.

“When we get rain we see a sharp drop in water use,” said Katherine Yuhas, Water Conservation Officer for the Water Authority.

Yuhas says conservation in 2014 has led to 710-million fewer gallons of water being used district wide compared to the same time frame (January through July) of last year.

“That’s water that we’re letting remain in the aquifer,” said Yuhas.

Some customers are noticing the savings as well, reporting bills that are $20 to $30 cheaper this month than the previous.

“Yes, they should be less and should continue to go down, it’s predicted to be a cooler rainy fall, so take advantage of that when you can,” said Yuhas.

But the conservation has the Water Authority looking at its own budget for construction projects and worker costs. Customers will start paying about $3 to $4 more a month on their next bill because of a rate increase approved in May 2014.

The increases likely won’t stop there either.

“The next rate increase is another five percent rate increase,” said Yuhas.

That five percent rate increase hasn’t been approved yet, but will be finalized and voted on by the Water Authority’s board of directors in the spring.

That rate hike could change though, depending on how much or how little water people use. Despite the change, the utility says the next hike could be the last for a while because water users are hitting long-term conservation goals already.

“Another rainy year isn’t going to cause another big drop in use, there’s only so much conservation that’s going to happen outdoors,” said Yuhas.

Water users have cut back significantly in the month of July. Back in July 2011, one of the more recent dry years, customers used about 4.2 billion gallons of water district wide.

In July 2014, customers only used 3.5 billion gallons of water district wide.

The Water Authority is launching another water saving project in October. When heavy rains charge the San Juan-Chama water project, that excess water will be pumped into the Rio Grande, then up to the Arroyo del Oso arroyo, a holding pond near the golf course. That water will be allowed to settle into the aquifer naturally, to help it recharge.

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