Denver Water Hikes Rates for 2010

Denver’s Board of Water Commissioners on Oct. 28 approved an adjustment in water rates for 2010 to help fund the utility’s 10-year capital plan. The new rates will take effect Feb. 3, 2010.

Typical Denver residential customers will see their bills increase by about $40 a year — an average of $3.30 per month, or about $12 on a summer bill. Typical suburban residential customers served by Denver Water will see an increase of $51 per year — an average of $4.30 per month, or about $16 on a summer bill.

The commissioners also approved a rate increase in 2008 for 2009.

The effects of the proposed changes on customer bills will vary depending upon the amount of water the customer uses and whether the customer lives in Denver or is served by a suburban distributor under contract with Denver Water; the more customers use, the more they will pay.

Commercial, industrial and government customers will see adjustments in rates, as well.

Rates for customers living inside the city remain among the lowest in the metro area, while rates for residential customers in the suburbs still fall at or below the median among area water providers.

The utility’s 10-year plan includes 300 projects, including upgrades to aging infrastructure to prevent putting reliable water service at risk. The plan also calls for expansion of the utility’s system capacity to meet the future needs of its customers. Over the next 10 years, the utility plans to

  • expand its recycled water system,
  • enlarge Gross Reservoir by 18,000 acre-feet,
  • finish developing gravel pits that store reusable water, and
  • explore ways to work with other water providers to bring more supplies to its system.

Denver Water has determined the cost of making repairs and replacements to its aging infrastructure and building new supply within its system will total $1.3 billion over the next 10 years.

“We need to be more proactive in our work to repair, maintain and upgrade our aging water system. Some of our facilities are more than 100 years old,” said Brian Good, director of operations and maintenance. “Next year, you will see us doing more water main replacements, more cement mortar lining of pipes to extend their useful life and upgrading underground vaults. We also will be doing major upgrades at the Marston Treatment Plant, replacing gates at Cheesman Dam that date back to the early 1900s, and installing a new hydropower turbine at Williams Fork Reservoir.”

In 2010, the water department will need an additional $13.3 million in revenue to cover rising costs associated with maintaining and improving the city’s water system. Denver Water owns and maintains 2,800 miles of distribution pipe — enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York — as well as 12 raw water reservoirs, 22 pump stations and four treatment plants. Rehabilitation and replacement of infrastructure is needed throughout the water distribution system, much of which dates back to the World War II era or earlier.

The utility is funded through rates, new tap fees and the sale of hydropower, not taxes. Its rates are designed to recover the costs of providing reliable, high-quality water service and to encourage efficiency by charging higher prices for increased water use. Most of its costs are fixed and include maintenance of the system’s distribution pipes, reservoirs, pump stations and treatment plants.

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