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Las Vegas residential water customers to pay $5 surcharge starting in May

Updated Tuesday, March 6, 2012 | 3:24 p.m.

Steve Sisolak

Steve Sisolak

Pat Mulroy

Pat Mulroy

Las Vegas residents will see their water bills increase by $5 in May, after the Las Vegas Valley Water District board approved the surcharge to help cover debt payments over the next three years.

The flat-rate increase means retail businesses could see their bills increase by $36 and resorts would see their bills rise $2,200.

Approval by the Water District board didn’t come without challenges. Launce Rake, on the state board of the Sierra Club, held up his water bill of about $13. With a $5 increase, he will see an increase of about 40 percent in May. Meanwhile, he said, casinos and golf courses will experience only 2-6 percent increases.

He posited that because he’s a low-water user, “now I’m the enemy.” Though he conserves water, he still gets socked with a huge percentage increase.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak, chairman of the board, agreed. The increases make it appear as though conservation isn’t as important any more. “The more we conserve, the more revenue that the Water District needs, the more they increase rates,” he said.

The rate increase stems from outstanding debt incurred by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the water wholesaler for several Southern Nevada water districts — in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Boulder City and Henderson. The agency is building a third intake at Lake Mead at a cost of some $800 million, to draw water from lower elevations should drought push the lake level lower.

From the Las Vegas Valley Water District alone the flat-rate surcharge will raise an additional $71 million.

Pat Mulroy, head of the Water Authority, said the money is needed because connection fees fell as development in Clark County slowed dramatically. For years, the agency relied on those fees to fund capital projects. When those fees dried up, the authority looked to its only remaining source of big revenue, water consumers.

But the authority board rejected a proposal to increase water rates based on consumption, arguing that it is too unreliable--if people see their bills increase, they could conserve more to save money. Then, the authority might have to raise rates again to meet its debt payments.

Instead, it settled on a flat-rate increase for the next three years.

After fielding complaints from businesses, however, Mulroy promised to evaluate how increases will be incorporated in 2016. She also promised that from now on the Water District will begin posting all material about its meetings--including lengthy back-up documents--online.

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  1. All these corporate people that do not believe in social programs let companies like this add a surcharge to help recover what was lost due to their mismanagement of my monthly tithing. I will call it my mini monthly bailout for SNWA

  2. You need to understand why we are all getting socked with this surcharge. Essentially we ratepayers are paying for mismanagement. Of course the Management of the LVVWD has always considered itself prudent and conservative. It was that "prudence" and "conservatism" which is costing us money now. When we could have had a straw deep enough to supply our water, LVVWD Management chose instead to "save" money by planning and building a "second straw" which is now not deep enough. So now we have to build and pay for a "third straw" when we could have built the second straw deep enough (and at a time when we had plenty of money to finance its' construction).

    I can criticize this now because bank then I pointed out that the second straw wasn't going to be deep enough.

    But this is chump change compared to what this "prudent" and "conservative" LVVWD Management has been getting us into. We have only a certain ability to service debt. That will be pretty well exhausted by the LVVWD plan to build a very expensive pipeline to draw water from Northeastern Nevada. The amount of water we can wring out of NE Nevada will not be enough to sustain Las Vegas if the drying out of the Southwest continues. Yet the LVVWD has for over 20 years systematically squelched any alternative to the NE Nevada groundwater plan, leaving us with the prospect of maxing out our bonding ability for an expensive and unreliable water supply which will be inadequate for our needs.

  3. Wait a second. If the fee were consumption based instead of a flat fee, people might be smarter about how they use water and conserve more? Oh, the humanity!

  4. We are in the desert and we need water. Think about not being able to flush your toilet again. Michigan or upstate NY with all those lakes is ready to invite new residents. Don't let the door slam you in the butt on the way out. I will just pay the extra $5.

  5. LV logic at work again. Why insult citizens with your reasoning. You want more money and you are taking it. Fletcher, in "The Outlaw Josie Wales" said something to the effect of, "Senator, don't pi$$ down my back and tell me it's raining." Water or energy, it is all the same ridiculous insulting game.

  6. Immediately invoke a building moratorium in Southern Nevada. Only building allowed is on previously developed pad/parcels. And, when built, any and ALL conservation devices are to be installed and enforced.

    This is a DESERT with limited resources. Time that good thinking replace the bad thinking and greed that has brought us to this point!

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star