Rates and the Challenges We Face
The Columbia Valley Water District was formed in the early 2000s, after the Paradise Lakes Country Club disbanded. The water system was built in 1971 and at that time was in need of much repair. The system water loss percentage was at 70% and was red tagged by the WA State Dept. of Health until repairs were made and the loss percentage was reduced. The monthly water rate that PLCC charged was $10.00 per month. Not enough to cover the maintenance expenses of the water system.
So that the red tag could be removed and the system health up to the standards and requirements set by the WA State DOH, the District received a $4 million loan and replaced some of the mainline, installed consumer meters, upgraded the SCADA system and purchased the District office. The payment on this loan, even though it is at 0 percent interest, is approximately $177,000 annually.
The challenge before us: The water system is over 40 years old, normal life span for water systems is 50 years, even though the District had only been formed 11 years ago. The District is essentially 29 years behind on system replacement and has a $4 million debt load. The funding that supports the water system is solely from those who are connected to the system through the water rates that they pay.
To meet the revenue needs of the District today and in the future the CVWD must bring forward rate increases annually. The main factors that contribute to the percentage of increase are:
- Aging infrastructure - pay for improvements and repairs to the water system
- Contributions into a Reserve Fund for emergencies
- New local, state or federal rules or regulations
- Increases in operation costs for things such as electricity, treatment supplies, and materials
- Increases in administrative costs such as printing, postage, supplies, equipment and employee benefits.
Before CVWD raises water rates, it notifies the public in advance. The District holds a public Rate Setting meeting to discuss the District needs and the revenue required to meet those needs. Also, the District mails out notices 30 days in advance, typically with the monthly billing before the new rates become effective.
Rate increases are never pleasant, but the Columbia Valley Water District has a responsibility to ensure that its customers have a safe and reliable drinking water system. The Commissioners know how important each dollar is to its customers. They are constantly striving to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible. They work hard for you at keeping the rates as low as possible by making each dollar stretch as far as it can while making sure we all have a healthy water system in the future.