Conserving water will save more money, under proposed rate plan

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Time to fix those leaky faucets. The less water you use, the more you’ll save, under a five-year rate plan to be considered Tuesday by the Hawaii County Water Board.

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Time to fix those leaky faucets. The less water you use, the more you’ll save, under a five-year rate plan to be considered Tuesday by the Hawaii County Water Board.

The board will consider a water rate study that has no water rate increases for those in the smallest usage categories for the first year, with larger increases for larger users through 2020. The board will also consider a $53.17 million annual budget, a 2 percent increase over this year, proposed by the Department of Water Supply.

“The rate increases being proposed are moderate and allow the department to accommodate infrastructure needs islandwide over the next five years,” said Finance Division Head Richard Sumada. “The proposed budget incorporates the proposed rate increase and factors in anticipated salary increases and standard operational expenses.”

The Water Board will hold a public hearing on the budget at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday at the Water Department’s operations center conference room at 889 Leilani St. in Hilo. The board meeting begins at 10 a.m.

Increases in salaries, employee benefits, repair and maintenance and safety account for most of the increased expenses. Budget cuts in utilities, interest and reserves help hold the line at a 2 percent increase.

Water users using up to 5,000 gallons a month will continue to pay 89 cents per thousand gallons until July 1, 2016, when it will increase to 91 cents and remain at that rate until increasing to 92 cents on July 1, 2019.

Those using more than 5,000 gallons monthly but less than 15,000 gallons will continue to pay the current rate of $1.80 per thousand gallons until July 1, 2017, when it will increase to $1.88 and then to $1.95 in 2018 and $2.01 in 2019.

And those using more than 15,000 gallons monthly but less than 40,000 gallons will see an increase from $3.03 per thousand gallons to $3.10 on July 1, followed by $3.20 on July 1, 2016, $3.30 on July 1, 2017, $3.40 on July 1, 208 and $3.53 on July 1, 2019.

The water bill includes the water consumption charge, a set standby charge and a power cost charge that fluctuates with the price of electricity.

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The typical homeowner connected to a 5/8-inch pipe will see a 75 cent increase in the monthly standby charge, bringing it to $16.75 a month on July 1. That will increase to $17.40 in 2016, $18.30 in 2017, $19.20 in 2018 and $20.20 in 2019.

The Water Department uses a system known as a conservation oriented rate structure, spokeswoman Kanani Aton said. The rate structure compels the water customer to implement water conservation measures in order to save money, balanced against the requirement that enough revenue is made to cover the expenses of running a water company.

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