New year to bring water-rate hikes

Water customers in Grand Junction and the Clifton Water District will see their water rates go up in January, and rates charged by the Ute Water Conservancy District might not be far behind.

Clifton Water District customers will see their minimum monthly rate for 3,000 gallons rise $3 from $14.50 to $17.50. Those customers also will see a system-investment fee of $2.50 on their monthly bills.

Grand Junction customers will see their minimum rate rise $2 a month, from $9 to $11 for up to 3,000 gallons.

The county’s largest water purveyor, Ute Water Conservancy District, meanwhile, will decide this week whether to increase rates for the 80,000 people it serves as it considers its budget.

Clifton is the second-largest supplier, serving about 40,000 people, while Grand Junction serves about 27,000 people. Clifton and the Grand Junction water system operate exclusively on water rates.

Clifton adopted its new rates in part to control consumption with higher prices, but it’s also looking to build up funds to maintain the system that depends on the Colorado River, General Manager Dale Tooker said.

Clifton’s rate for 3,001 to 10,000 gallons will rise to $2.50 per 1,000 gallons, up from the current $2.25.

Grand Junction’s rate for the same usage will rise a dime, from $1.85 to $1.95 per 1,000 gallons.

For 10,001 to 18,000 gallons, Clifton will charge $3.35 per 1,000 gallons, up from $2.60. Grand Junction will bump its rate by 10 cents, from $2.25 to $2.35 per 1,000 gallons between 10,001 and 20,000 gallons. Usage over 20,000 gallons will rise from $2.65 to $2.75 per 1,000 gallons in Grand Junction.

Clifton will charge a premium for usage of more than 18,000 gallons. Rates per 1,000 gallons will rise to $4.50 from $3.50.

Clifton’s increase is the third in a row and the 2013 hike is a bit larger than the 2011 and 2012 bumps, Tooker said.

The district board instituted increases as the economy began to show improvement and it became clear that it would have to make improvements to the delivery system and increase the size of its water treatment plant.

Clifton realized as early as 2005 that it needed to expand its water plants, but it set plans aside in 2008 when the local economy took a hit as the national economy dipped.

“Now it’s time to revitalize those plans and to do so, we need to have a water rate increase,” Tooker said.

Last summer’s Pine Ridge fire behind the Bookcliffs underscored the need for improvements, Tooker said.

Clifton tapped into Ute Water’s system for two days when ash and debris loosened by the fire flowed into the Colorado River in De Beque Canyon and made it impossible for the plant to process river water.

Had the district already installed the improvements it’s anticipating, that “would have been a non-issue for us,” Tooker said.

Clifton now is designing the addition of a micro ultra-filtration process, which will work with its existing system, and hopes to break ground in late 2013 or early 2014 with completion in 2015, Tooker said. Clifton estimates the expansion will cost between $12 million and $18 million.

Officials are hoping to complete the expansion while operating the plant as normal, Tooker said.

Grand Junction’s new rates are geared to continue the maintenance it needs at its water treatment plant, which was built in 1968, and the replacement of 31 miles of aging, metal pipe, said Rick Brinkman, water services manager.



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