Soaring summer water bills are spurring customer complaints in southern Logan County.
New rates designed to curb water usage in Rural Water District No. 1 instead have some questioning whether they can afford to live in the largely rural area centered about 25 miles north of Oklahoma City.
Brad Stone, president of the Highland Trails homeowner's association, said he knows of residents whose monthly bills jumped from less than $100 to more than $2,000.
“You're talking the same price as some of these people's mortgages,” Stone said. “When you start talking about affecting real estate values and people wanting to move, it's kind of a big deal.”
Buddy Thompson, the water district's manager, offered a simple solution to bring the bills back down: Stop watering the lawn.
The water system, which operates on wells, is not designed for such use, he said.
“I don't think a lot of them realized how much water they use when they're watering,'' he said.
In May, to minimize the potential effects of the drought and conserve water, leaders of the 50-square-mile district ordered mandatory water rationing and initiated new summer rates.
Users were allowed to water their lawns only twice a week. And the amount customers were charged after exceeding the first 15,999 gallons was increased from $6 for every 1,000 gallons to $15.
Summer rates will end in September but will last be reflected on the November bill.
The rate increase has been a boon, raising an extra $100,000 per month for a district that is funded solely by water sales.
The extra money will be used, in part, to help pay for recent improvements including a new service line to patrons east of Interstate 35, a new water tower, a new automated meter system, a new well and other work, Thompson said.
But it also has spurred plenty of complaints among the district's 2,500 mostly residential customers.
Stone said one family already was moving from his subdivision, where 200 homes have been built in the past five years.
“Four straight months of $600-plus bills, and they say they can't afford to live here anymore,” Stone said.
The issue is on the agenda at the district's monthly board meeting scheduled for Thursday night, and several residents have asked to speak, Thompson said.
Thompson said the summer rate increase will be reviewed but warned that given the ongoing drought, customers might not like the outcome.
“It could go even higher,” he said.