Oklahoma City residents soon will be able to weigh in on a proposed water rate increase that would see utility bills climb by 17 percent.
The matter is set for a hearing in two weeks when the city council will take public comments on plans to upgrade the city’s water system.
The proposal is designed to promote conservation while financing the start of $2.1 billion in work needed to support projected population growth.
The centerpiece is construction of a second pipeline to pump water 100 miles from Atoka Lake in southeast Oklahoma to Oklahoma City. With the second pipeline, Oklahoma City is expected to have the capacity to meet water demand at least into the early 2040s.
If the plans are adopted, utility bills are expected to go up 17 percent, to $60.29, over the next three years for a family using 7,000 gallons of water per month, the average. A family using 15,000 gallons would be paying $90.66 per month after three years.
Bills also would rise for commercial users and for metro-area cities that buy water from Oklahoma City. About 1.3 million people in the greater metro area depend in whole or in part on Oklahoma City for water.
The council voted Tuesday to set a public hearing for Aug. 26, and plans are to adopt new rates Sept. 9.
Ward 4 Councilman Pete White, who is also chairman of the city’s Water Utilities Trust, said the plans are conservation-driven.
Residential customers who use more than 10,000 gallons per month would pay escalated rates. Consultants who devised the plan say that threshold could be adjusted and an additional threshold could be added after the first several years.
“We believe people, if we charge more for water — they’ll use less of it,” White said.
In a memo to council members, City Manager Jim Couch said 48 percent of residential customers exceeded 10,000 gallons for at least one month in 2012, a record summer. They would have paid the higher, conservation-oriented rates, had they been in place, he said.
Instituting a “use more, pay more” scheme to encourage conservation.
Covering costs and debt with fixed, or base, charges and the revenue from delivery of the first 10,000 gallons used.
Producing 5 percent more revenue each year, while reducing overall water use by 4.3 percent after five years.
Ensuring surrounding communities pay equitable rates for water bought from Oklahoma City and that they share in system improvement costs.
Plans also call for increasing over three years the charge — known as the “impact fee” — to hook up a new home to the water system.
The fee would go from $100 to $1,000, in $300 increments.
That proposal will be considered separately from water rates, getting its first hearing before the Planning Commission after being approved Tuesday afternoon by the Water Utilities Commission.
Oklahoma City’s combined impact fee for residential water and sewer hookups would increase after three years to $1,250, ranking between the current charges in Fort Worth, Texas, ($921) and St. Louis ($1,572).
Edmond charges $2,133, while — on the high end regionally — Denver charges $7,400.