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For the week of June 6 - June 12, 2001


Ketchum hikes 
water rates

Conservation ordinance vote June 18

Express Staff Writer

Water rates for Ketchum’s metered users will go up beginning for the July billing cycle.

The Ketchum City Council voted unanimously Monday night to implement a rate hike for the city’s metered users—about 80 percent of residents who are on the city system. Those not on meters will also likely experience a rate hike, but the council put off its decision on non-metered water users until its next meeting on June 18.

The approved increase will be on a graduated scale, which could encourage water conservation among users, city water superintendent Steve Hansen said. Users consuming more water will experience more of an increase than users consuming less water.

Those using up to 5,000 gallons of water per month will experience a 4 percent increase. Those using 300,000 gallons per month or more will experience a 23 percent increase. Percent increases between those two categories vary, but go up as water use rises

Hansen said the rate increase is necessary for several reasons: to help offset increasing water department operational costs, including Idaho Power Co.’s recent electricity rate hike; to replace old vehicles; pay for an increase in staff, and to promote water conservation using the city’s metered rate structure.

"In areas where water can be scarce, such as the West, water metering is the most effective way to promote water conservation," Hansen said. "What we’re hoping to do is get (the water user’s) attention."

The city’s last water rate increase came in July, 1995. The graduated increase averaged 12 percent across all water users, Hansen said.

Average water use per person in Idaho is approximately 250 gallons per day, according to the American Water Works Association. That number includes irrigation water for lawns and landscaping.

If a family of three or four is subjected to the average amount, they would consume 20,000 to 30,000 gallons per month, Hansen said.

"I have determined that approximately 70 percent of our metered accounts will fit into this category of water use when averaged over an entire year," he said. "Some will use even less"

The remaining 30 percent of the city’s water users can be divided as follows: 15 percent use 30,000 to 50,000 gallons per month; 10 percent use 50,000 to 100,000 per month; and 5 percent use more than 100,000 gallons per month.

During peak use, several Ketchum residential property owners use over 500,000 gallons per month. One home on Northwood Way has used over 800,000 gallons a month during peak use. The same property’s three-year average use is 307,000 gallons per month.

Though Hansen proposed an 8 percent increase for the city’s flat-rate users, council members said they suspect the increase should be higher to better reflect high-end water use.

"If the flat rate at base level is way off, it’s not fair not to raise it," Councilman David Hutchinson said. "This flat rate is low."

Hansen said he was not sure if Hutchinson’s hunch was correct, but agreed to try and put a finger on how much water flat-rate users are consuming.

Hansen has also proposed a city-wide drought response plan, which would restrict water uses during periods of drought.

Council members, who appear to generally favor the plan, will hold a third reading of the plan on June 18.

The plan proposes two levels of drought response: a drought warning and drought emergency.

During a drought warning, landscape watering would be limited to alternate days.

During a drought emergency, use of water to clean sidewalks, driveways and porches would be prohibited, and construction site dust abatement would not be allowed.

The two levels would be implemented at the Mayor’s or city council’s discretion, based on water levels in the city’s storage facilities.


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