Water use in Hailey drops significantly during winter months when the need for irrigation ends. But some residents have to trickle water through old pipes at times during winter to keep water lines from freezing.
Sewer rates for Hailey residents are determined by how much water a household uses, based on the amount used the previous year.
Until last week, the city had no means of measuring what portion of a sewer bill was paid for water that was never treated at the wastewater treatment plant, but instead was spilled on the ground.
Beginning this winter, those who trickle faucets outdoors, rather than into a sink in the house, will be charged only the base rate of $27.50 per month for sewer services. That's the amount paid for 6,000 gallons per month, the estimated average winter use per house.
Ratepayers will continue to be charged for water they use beyond that amount.
The new law goes into effect from November through March. It could save some people with exposed or uninsulated pipes real money.
"Some people have been spending $60 to $70 per month for sewer services," said City Engineer Tom Hellen.
Hellen wrote an ordinance in response to complaints from residents who said they did not want to be charged for water they spill on the ground, rather than sending it to the sewer plant for treatment.
Hailey residents who want to take advantage of the new law must notify the Public Works Department before trickling water outside this winter.
"Two or three gallons per hour is a pretty safe amount to keep lines from freezing," Hellen said. "That's not a huge amount of water. But you can't just run it in the house—it must be through an outside faucet of some kind."
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org