By Joel Hall
In the wake of the Georgia drought, the Henry and Clayton County water authorities have taken what they call proactive steps, to see that residents curtail their water use.
The changes, official say, are meant to comply with the state's water conservation plan, recommended by the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District.
Effective Jan. 1, 2008, the Clayton County Water Authority will adopt a new conservation pricing structure that will increase the cost of water for commercial and non-single family residential units by five percent.
The rates of single family residential units that use 3,000 gallons or less of water per month will stay the same as the 2007 pricing, while those who use more water will have to pay more.
Households that use 4,000 - 7,000 gallons will have to pay five percent more, those that use 8,000 - 20,000 gallons will have to pay 25 percent more, and those that use greater than 20,000 gallons will have to pay 50 percent more.
Sewer rates will also be adjusted. Single family residential units that use less than 3,000 gallons will not see an increase from the 2007, however, families that use more than 4,000 gallons will have to pay five percent more.
Sewer customers other than single family residential units will have to pay an extra five percent across the board.
While the new rate structure will be reflected on February 2008 bills, the rate for storm water utility will stay at $3.75 a month.
Suzanne Brown, public information officer for the CCWA, said that the rate adjustment would typically not affect seniors and people on fixed incomes, who tend to use less water. Average four-person households that use about 6,000 gallons a month would see a $1.32 increase per month, if they use both water and sewer, she said.
"If you are looking at it, it's still not a huge increase," said Brown. "If they are really efficiently using water, they will not see an increase, or much of an increase. It does encourage people to use their water more efficiently, which is especially important during drought time."
Roderick Burch, finance director for the Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority, said the agency has already adopted conservation measures which went into affect this month.
Henry County, which charges for water by the gallon to about 54,000 customers, has adjusted its rates for both water and sewer. A $9.25 charge will apply to both services, no matter how much water customers use.
For water, customers who use 1,000 to 6,000 gallons of water per month will be charged $3.50 per 1,000 gallons. Those who use 7,000 to 10,000 gallons per month will pay $4.75 per 1,000 gallons, and those who use 11,000 gallons or more will pay $6.95 per 1,000 gallons.
"One of the requirements was that your top tier rate had to be about twice your bottom tier rate," said Burch. He said that the people in Henry who use 11,000 gallons a month will pay almost twice as much for their water as people who use 6,000 gallons or less.
For sewer, in addition to the base rate, users will pay $3.50 per 1,000 gallons for 1,000 to 6,000 of monthly sewer usage, and $4.75 per 1,000 gallons for using 7,000 gallons a month or more.
CCWA General Manager Mike Thomas said the water authority had a rate structure in place, but the new conservation structure falls more in line with what the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District wants to see throughout the metro area.
"Every year, we look at what we need to operate a safe, reliable utility while meeting our strict industry regulation," said Thomas, in a prepared statement. "Because we do not receive any tax dollars and rely solely on our revenues to operate, we work hard to balance funding necessary improvements, while keeping our rates as low as possible.
"This has become even more challenging during this time of water conservation, when usage and revenues are much lower than normal," Thomas said.
Brown, of Clayton County, encouraged anyone with leaks to get them fixed, as they would show up more readily under the new rate structure. She suggested repairing dripping faucets by replacing washers, fully loading automatic dishwashers, replacing shower heads with ultra-low-flow versions, washing only full loads of clothes, and not letting the water run while brushing your teeth, or shaving.
Toilet leaks can be checked by putting cola or food coloring in the tank and not flushing the toilet for 30 minutes. If the toilet has a leak, color will appear in the bowl.