Highland Park officials have been urging residents to conserve water for the past decade, and it appears the residents are listening.
Their reward might provide a sense of sticker shock when HP homeowners open their next water bill. The town is raising water and sewer rates by 12.5 percent in its most recent budget, which took effect Oct. 1.
The primary reason for the spike is a severe drop in water usage during the first eight months of the year — a decrease of 87.8 million fewer gallons, to be exact.
Highland Park raised its water and sanitary sewer rates by 12.5 percent on Oct. 1. Here’s a breakdown, with costs per 1,000 gallons metered.
Water usage in Highland Park has decreased in each of the last five years, while rates have been on the rise. Usage is measured in gallons.
Yet the town needs water revenue as part of its annual budget as part of a pay-as-you-go plan to avoid issuing debt to pay for infrastructure projects. In fact, water fees will be the main funding source for more than $2.7 million in utility system improvements in 2016.
“The water usage has been down. We can attribute that to water conservation and the wetter spring that we had,” said Lt. Lance Koppa, HP community relations officer. “The water rates were adjusted to make up the difference for that anticipated loss in revenue.”
So while knee-jerk cynics might view the sharp price hike as a sign of greed, Koppa said it offers an incentive for further conservation efforts.
“It should not be a surprise,” he said. “There’s been a lot of messaging about the importance of water conservation. As the global message hits home, you really see it at the local level, which is potentially what we’re seeing.”
Koppa said for those who have curbed their water usage significantly, their bills shouldn’t change much because they’ll be paying a higher rate for a smaller amount.
Like the water rates, the town’s budget for utility system improvements is reviewed every year by the finance department. If the water rate doesn’t increase, HP wouldn’t have enough money for the utility projects.
University Park raised its utility rates by 4 percent and its sanitation rates by 5 percent in its new fiscal-year budget after a more significant increase last year. Both municipalities are facing a 3.6 percent price hike for water treatment from their provider, the Dallas County Park Cities Municipal Utility District, which also factors into the new residential charges.
To help its conservation efforts, HP provides free irrigation system checks and water-wise landscaping advice for residents.