By Meg Olson
Customers who have the biggest impact on the water supply will shoulder a bigger slice of the cost under a new rate structure adopted by the Point Roberts water district.
“It is desirable to differentiate between base rate fees for residential customers with substantially different impacts on the system,” states the resolution establishing the new rates, approved unanimously by commissioners at the district board’s December 10 meeting.
In addition to incremental across-the-board increases to the base rate over the next five years, the resolution establishes a “high impact customer charge” of $15 for users with very high overall use or high peak usage.
“The criteria for high impact is a little convoluted but that is unavoidable when you have customers with zero use (computers cannot process division by zero),” said Ashley Emery with Peninsula Financial Consulting, who explained the recent review of water rates. “The first criteria is, did the residence use 3,500 or more cubic feet in any billing period during the last year? If this occurred, then their peaking factor doesn’t matter because statistically they are a significant high water user and therefore high impact.”
If a residence used less than 3,500 cubic feet in a billing cycle, then they are classified as a high impact user if their peak ratio – their highest usage during a billing period divided by their lowest – is 10 or greater.
The many seasonal residences on the Point will have a lowest use of zero, which requires a third method for determining high impact users. “In these cases, we check all six of their billing period usages and if any of them are 1,500 cubic feet or more, then they are considered high impact,” Emery said. “We only apply this last criteria as a last resort if they have a zero usage.”
Currently, approximately 20 percent of water system users, or 400 customers, would qualify for the high impact charge. “We are trying to give a slight break to the rates of low to moderate users,” Emery said.
Emery explained that they recommended the high impact customer charge because “it is the only means at our disposal to differentiate between ‘normal’ residences and ‘high use’ residences.”
Volume charges, which are applied to accounts that use over the base of 500 cubic feet per billing cycle and go up incrementally as usage increases do address higher use, but Emery said they “had to artificially keep the volume rates low” because the contract to purchase water from the Greater Vancouver Water District is for a set amount per year which the district rarely meets. “You need to sell as much as possible.”
In 2020, the base rate for residential customers will increase seven percent from $79.20 to $84.95 every two months. Commercial and multi-family connections will also see their monthly rate (which does not include a base volume) increase by seven percent.
Residential customers who are classed as high impact will see their base rates go up 26 percent to $99.75. The base rates will automatically increase five percent every year through 2024. No increases to the volume rates are planned.
Commissioners will review the high impact charge policy at the end of the year.