Sunday, October 14, 2018

City Staff to Bring New Water Conservation Incentives to Council

San Angelo's City Council held existing water conservation credits in place until staff can bring new water conservation incentive program(s) to Council.  I wasn't sure the program was ill conceived and researched City Council history on the credits.  The City's Slideshare repository produced the following.

In April 2011 City Council heard a presentation on the impact of the 2006 Water Conservation Credits.

The City had two water rate increases, one in 2007 and another in 2011, during the evaluation period below.

Citizens conserved greatly between 2011 and 2015, reducing daily water usage by 37%.  The 10% conservation credit was in place during this period of significant conservation.

Two thoughts entered my mind as the 10-2-2018 discussion ensued.  First, hadn't prior City Council's asked staff to bring updated water conservation incentives for consideration?  The Alvin New, Kendall Hirschfeld and Paul Alexander era had leaders high on water conservation and pursuing new options.  A number of faces changed since Councilman Kendall Hirschfeld asked staff to do this very thing.  In May 2013 Hirschfeld called for advancing:

 "user conservation efforts via incentives for improvements such as rainwater collection, drought-tolerant landscaping, and high-flow toilet replacement, as examples".
Kendall Hirschfeld served on a private citizen group that proposed water conservation strategies to City Council in June 2014.  Hirshfeld was appointed to a re-constituted Water Advisory Board in 2016 where he echoed his call for a comprehensive water conservation program with incentives for citizens.  Despite the calls for new, updated conservation incentives city staff never delivered.

It's 2018 and staff, albeit different due to turnover, are still working on a water conservation incentive package. City staff's recommendation to cut the 10% conservation credit for low water use until they had time to bring back a more comprehensive updated program looked lazy in light of this history of waiting.

My second thought centered on the increase in water rebates from $150,000 in 2006 to $400,000 for 2018.  As water rates have gone through the roof since 2006, most of the huge increase in conservation credits occurred solely because of city induced water rate increases.

The City enacted water rate increases in 2007, 2011, 2016, 2017 and 2018.  Another water increase is coming January 1, 2019.

2007 - Average increase of $13.22 per month
2011 - Average increase of $14.75 per month
2011-2016 - Additional fees of $5.42 per month added.
2016 - Average increase of $5.88 per month
2017 - Average increase of $6.56 per month.
2018 -Average increase of $7.32 per month
Two more rate increases are planned for 2019 and 2020.  Combined they total $7.96 per month.

Math shows rate increases to be the sole cause of increased conservation credits since 2011 for the 3,000 gallon a month user.  It's not fair for the city to act like conservation credits rose rapidly outside their repeated jacking up of rates.

It looked like another $400,000 grab from citizen pocketbooks, but fortunately City Council put that on hold.  We'll see how the proposed conservation incentives compare to the current program.  That is if staff present cost projections in a regular agenda item.  

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