Water, sewer rates to climb

March 26, 2013

By Ari Cetron

New: March 26, 11:17 a.m.

The Sammamish Plateau Water & Sewer District approved a hike to both water and sewer rates at its March 18 meeting.

On a 4-0 vote (Commission President Tom Harman was absent for the vote) rates will go up 2 percent for water and 16 percent for sewer. The combined increase will be about 7.9 percent. For most single family households, this will mean an average water bill increase of 65 cents per month bringing their bill to $35.17, according to the district.

Sewer rates will climb by an average of $4.03 per month bringing those bills to $29.20.

The new rates go into effect April 1. Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer covers the majority of the Sammamish Plateau including Klahanie and parts of unincorporated King County east of Sammamish, parts of the city of Issaquah and parts of unincorporated King County east of Redmond.

Water District General Manager Jay Krauss said the discrepancy in rate increases owes to the district policy of not forcing residents on septic systems to help subsidize the sewer system. The district has slightly less than 17,000 water customers and slightly less than 11,000 sewer customers.

Krauss said that much of the increase is, paradoxically, related to resident’s water conservation. Many of the district’s costs revolve around fixed costs, such as replacing pipes and pumps. As residents use less water, the district has less money to replace those as they wear out.

“Part is a budget structural problem,” Krauss said.

Krauss also noted that the district has a policy of setting aside money for future work. Instead of reacting to broken water mains and paying down cash reserves, they like to build up a fund for replacement of those in advance of the work. The idea, he said, is to spread out the replacement costs among everyone who is getting the benefit of the infrastructure, instead of saddling some future generation with the costs.

Sammamish resident Karen May said at the meeting she sympathized with the work the district does, but was still upset at the increases. She noted that she has decreased her water use, but still saw a 14 percent increase in her bill.

She wants the district to structure their rates so that high volume water users pay more.

Commissioner Lloyd Warren said that the increase last year was likely a one-time adjustment, and that rate increases should be more gradual from now on. He further noted that 95 percent of district expenses come from fixed costs.

“We need to start guaranteeing that we’re going to be able to pay our bills,” he said.

He also noted that many high volume users have a higher base rate, which captures some of the cost.

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