Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Water Rate Hikes Coming...Reclaimed Water Use Becomes A Strategic Decision

Potable water rates and wastewater use in forefront
Two items on last week's Town of Oro Valley Town Council agenda related to water. One is a water rate increase. The second is a discussion the potential for extending the towns reclaimed water system to those parks currently use potable water for irrigation.

Potable water rates will increase in August
The council unanimously (6-0, Jones-Ivey absent) approved it's annual increase in water rates. An annual increase is part of Water Director Peter Abraham's plan to gradually increase rates to compensate for increased cost. This year, the cost of CAP water went up, causing the need for this year's increase cost. The rates schedules were accepted as presented. 

Mayor Winfield would like to see the town increase the cost of water to those homes that use more than 3,000 gallons of water a month.  Council Member Solomon disagrees. He noted the unfairness of this increase in subsidization by larger homes for smaller homes. The current rate schedule already does this.  The average use of water for Oro Valley homes is 7,000 gallons per month.  Winfield's suggested change further increase water cost to most resident.

Reclaimed water system to stay as is for now...further discussion needed
Council members Nicolson and Bohen had asked that a discussion of the wastewater system be on the agenda. They wanted to know: Can the system be extended to those town parks that use potable water? If so, what would it cost to do so?  What would be the impact on the town's potable water supply?

Abraham sees multiple uses of Oro Valley's reclaimed water allotment
Oro Valley Water Director Peter Abraham framed his response in a broader context. "When I started diving into this my mind was going to some amazing places that might be of better benefit to the community than just extending the reclaimed water system. We have an opportunity here to further ensure our sustainability. We have the resource. Let's take our time and wrestle with it."  One possibility is that reclaimed water can be treated and injected into our current potable water system.

Town Manager Jacobs: Future use of reclaimed water is a major policy issue
Oro Valley Town Manager Jacobs agrees that "this is a major policy issue. It is something we need to figure out in terms of what is right for this community. This should be incorporated into the strategic leadership plan."

Yes. The reclaimed water can be extended to the southern area of town
The cost of doing so depends on the route and the engineering challenges along the way. Abraham guesses that it could be $8 million dollars. But then again it could be $10 million or $6 million. Since Abraham doesn't know the route, he can not give a firm estimate of the cost of extending the route.  

Yes. The town does have enough capacity of reclaimed water to be able to supply those parks that are currently using potable water
These parks used 6.4 million gallons of drinking water in April [panel left]. That is the equivalent use for 917 single family residential home.

Jacobs will present a motion to the town council at next week’s meeting to “…analyze and develop policy options for the cost-effective and efficient long-term use of the Town’s unused reclaimed water entitlement.” (Source) This is to be completed by June 30 2023.
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