Higher Water Bills: Who Won and Who Lost?

Lawn

by Carl Paulson, Professional Engineer (P.E.)

Have you noticed a big increase in your water bill?  Yes, we’re paying more for water.  But people in Cherry Hills got a 20% rate reduction!

Littleton single family residence customers received an average 15% increase, with some individual residents seeing an increase of up to 40%.  That adds up to Littleton residents paying $621,000 more for water in 2016 than in 2015.

Our Centennial neighbors got an average 14% increase, and will pay $890,000 more than in 2015.

But here’s the big news–Cherry Hills residents, with their 20% rate decrease, will pay $477,000 less in 2016.

How did this happen?  I did a thorough investigation—details below.  The increase was designed by Denver Water’s Rate Structure Review Committee.  There was just one municipality with direct representation on the committee.  That was Cherry Hills, the municipality that comes out of this rate schedule as the big winner with a 20% reduction in their bill.

Here is the investigation that I conducted to get to the bottom of our April 1 rate increase:

Back in late February Denver Water sent, with their bill, an advertisement announcing a needed 3.8% revenue increase and also a new rate schedule.  Being curious, I calculated that my annual bill would go up 26%.

So I contacted Denver Water to confirm. Then I contacted a new member of Denver Water’s Citizen Advisory Committee, Michael Cowan.  He indicated his bill was increasing similarly, that he was asking questions, and that he was getting what he called “squishy answers.”

He then invited me to a Citizens Advisory Committee meeting. I spoke there.  I also spoke at a Denver Water Board of Commissioners meeting on March 23.

Following that meeting, I met with Angela Bricmont, Denver Water’s Director of Finance.  I have now received, I believe, all of the materials that were used to arrive at the new rate schedule. Along with that information I received data that allows me to report the actual rate increases—and decrease.

I presented this situation to the Littleton City Council at their meeting on August 2.  Along with the information above here, I wanted them to see that our rates were increased with no representation from Littleton.

After I spoke at the August 2 Littleton City Council meeting, it was decided that the Interim City Manager would look into the water rate increases.

Denver Water Chart

Note: The author, Carl Paulson, is mentioned in the Denver Post article about water rate increases at http://www.denverpost.com/2016/08/14/denver-waters-new-rate-structure-shocks-customers/

Denver Water 2016 Rate Schedule: Winners and Losers

Guest Contributor Carl Paulson

If you live in Littleton, Centennial, Greenwood Village or Cherry Hills and consume less than 125,000 gallons per year get ready for a 10% to 40% increase in your annual water bill.  However, if you are a high rate consumer, you will be the recipient of a 10% to 35% decrease in your bill.  Isn’t redistribution fun?

The 2015 rate schedule was compared to the new 2016 rate schedule for all 32,000 households. The comparison used 2014 consumption volumes from DW.  Some of the results are:

  1. Low volume residents experience a rate increase
  • 28,000 residents are faced with a 10% to 40% increase for an annual increase of $2.85 million
  • Of the above, 20,000 residents are faced with a 20% to 40% increase for an annual increase of $2.15 million
  1. High volume residents experience a decrease
  • 1,200 residents will enjoy a 10% to 35% decrease for an annual decrease of $1.22 million

So, what can be done about this?  Unfortunately, the PUC doesn’t regulate DW. The DW Board is appointed by the Mayor of Denver.  Probably the best hope for change is public outcry. Call DW (303-893-2444) and ask them to calculate your new water bill based on your 2015 and 2014 water rates. Ask them to explain the rate change. Express your opinion of the new rate schedule.

Please feel free to contact me at civanpaulson@gmail.com with any questions about this issue.