Arvadans will see a 12.3% increase in water tariffs in 2023

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After multiple incidents at water treatment plants over the past year, Arvada City Council has unanimously approved a 12.3% water rate increase to fund water improvements. the city’s aging infrastructure on October 17.

The rate hike will increase water bills for single-family homes by about $19 per fortnightly billing cycle on average for single-family homes.

The increase will result in an average water and wastewater rate increase of $13 per bi-monthly billing cycle for single-family homes. It also includes a bi-weekly $4 increase in water service charges and a bi-weekly $2 increase in sewage service charges.

The main cost drivers of the rate hike are a 15% hike in the price of raw water from Denver Water, the recommended issuance of a $50 million bond later this year that will fund infrastructure upgrades and an overall projected operating cost increase of $4.2 million in 2023.

Over the past five years, the average water rate in the city has increased about 3.55% per year, Gillis said. The bi-monthly service charge was last adjusted in 2022 for the first time since 2009.

Decades-old sewage treatment plants

At the heart of Arvada’s decision to invest in aging infrastructure are two water treatment plants: the Ralston Water Treatment Plant, built in the 1960s; and the Arvada wastewater treatment plant, built in the 1980s.

The RWTP is rated at 36 million gallons per day, while the AWTP is rated at 16 million gallons per day. 75% of Arvada’s raw water comes from Denver Water, while the rest is supplied by Clear Creek.

Two recent water main breaks and leaks through an outside wall of the RWTP over the summer have threatened the city’s water supply, as Arvada’s director of utilities, Sharon, told Israel, during a visit of the RWTP with Arvada Press.

“We had this water coming through this concrete which is 1960s concrete,” Israel said. “As soon as the water starts flowing, you start worrying about the overall structural integrity of the concrete — ‘How much worse is it going to get with water going through it?’ We knew we had to act very quickly, and to fix it, on one of the hottest days of summer, we had to have the plant dismantled. »

The RTWP was taken offline for six hours as crews frantically worked to fix the wall. Fortunately, the wall was repaired before most people got home from work, Israel said – although the threat of a disastrous shutdown looms.

“We knew it was a risk,” Israel said.

Bethany Yaffe, a civil engineer with the city’s public works department, said the plants are designed to operate well for about 50 years before requiring “significant reinvestment”.

“We typically look around 50 years before we need significant reinvestment,” Yaffe said. “Pipelines built with PVC tend to be a bit longer, like 70 years, but with metal or they have old concrete pipes, those are much less. And especially in this area where the soil is very corrosive, we tend to see problems with breaks and things in the hose.”

Israel pointed out that the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Law prompted cities across the country to build water treatment facilities, including Arvada.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure from that era – from the 60s and 70s – across the country,” Israel said. “The situation that Arvada finds itself in is very common in many cities that existed at that time. Everyone, in 1974, was subject to a whole new set of federal regulations. Everyone built their factories in the 60s and 70 and now everyone’s plants are getting old. If you look all over the metro area, there are a lot of plants that have the same vintage.”

Nonetheless, Israel added that since Arvada has “historically lower” water tariffs compared to other cities in the metropolitan area, the city’s water tariff will always be in the “lowest third of any the metropolitan area”, even with the increase in fares.

“This year we are looking to issue bonds for the first time on sewers, and for the first time on water in over 20 years,” Israel said. “So that’s part of what weighs in there too. The whole metro area is trying to figure it out, looking at our current infrastructure, doing a master plan like we did, to come up with a game plan of ‘ What does this next generation of infrastructure look like?’

A hesitant but necessary decision

At the October 17 city council meeting, Arvada Mayor Marc Williams summarized the position of many council members, who all voted to increase rates.

“We’ve had two major water main breaks in the last two weeks that cost us well over a million gallons of water, I believe,” Williams said. “We need to take lasting care of our community and it’s an appropriate step that we are taking… It goes 7-0; reluctantly, but necessarily.

Council member Lauren Simpson said she sympathizes with residents who may object to the rate hikes and referred them to hardship credits and other programs available to residents who may experience financial hardship as a result. of the increase.

“We are deeply sensitive to the costs that are happening right now,” Simpson said. “The races are more expensive, the electricity is going to be much more expensive this winter, the fuel is more expensive. So, we understand that it is more difficult, every little bite of apple sometimes feels like a pretty hard bite.

“In a few moments, I hope we find an opportunity for Ms. Israel to explain to us some of the options we have for low-income residents who are struggling to pay their water bills,” Simpson continued. “We have municipal programs to help residents and I encourage anyone who is feeling this pain to take advantage of them…we don’t want to turn people’s water off and we don’t turn people’s water off.”

Councilman John Marriott called the decision “good planning” by the city team and “good decision making” by the city council, and pointed to Denver’s water rate increase. as an independent variable of anyone under the control of the city of Arvada.

“We have benefited in Arvada from decisions made long ago about our infrastructure to provide us with not just abundant water, but high quality water, and it is time for us to take some of those same actions that have given us preceded a long time ago took to put us in such an advantageous position when it comes to our basic public services,” Marriott said.

“I’ll also note that the cost of the raw water we buy goes up about the same. and so, it’s not entirely – it’s costs that are beyond our control,” Marriott continued.

The inhabitants weigh

Arvada resident Mindy Mohr spoke in favor of the rate increase and highlighted her experience as a water treatment plant inspector and her relevant expertise on the difficult situation of the town.

“Nothing lasts forever and it’s a common problem for many communities in our country,” Mohr said. “For work, I have inspected water plants in the west and have seen problems when water plants are not maintained. I know our residents in Arvada want clean water. safe and reliable.

“We’ve all seen what happens when the infrastructure isn’t supported,” Mohr continued. “Whether it’s Jackson, Mississippi, or, in today’s news, Colorado City, Colorado.”

James Hearn, plumber and resident of Arvada, spoke about the scarcity of water and the importance of not wasting it.

“Well, I think (the rate increase is) very gradual and far-reaching, because it’s much better to fix, fix, expand when you have something to work on than when the whole system s ‘collapses,” Hearn said. “Everything has a life cycle, including iron and steel pipes.

“Water is a very precious resource, and we don’t need to waste it,” Hearn continued. “We have to be custodians of that because no one really owns the water, we use it, rent it, give it back, and it should be at least as good as we had it.”

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