By Matt Montgomery
Over the next two years, water bills are likely to gouge Piedmont residents’ pocketbooks, as the amount the City of Piedmont pays for its water from Oklahoma City will likely increase significantly.
Piedmont, along with the many other municipalities that buy wholesale water from Oklahoma City on a monthly basis, will feel the sting of this increase beginning when an Oklahoma City ordinance takes effect Oct. 1.
That ordinance includes an amendment to usage charges outside of the city. Piedmont falls under that category.
Piedmont City Manager Jim Crosby said while Piedmont residents should be thankful to Oklahoma City for the water, they should also be aware of the upcoming rate increase.
“Oklahoma City has been very progressive, as far as getting water rights,” Crosby said. “You need to salute Oklahoma City for their forward thinking and having the ability to provide us water.”
Crosby said Oklahoma City is planning to spend $2.2 Billion over the next two years to improve the distribution system and the brand new Atoka waterline that brings water from southeastern Oklahoma to Oklahoma City. The cost for the water line alone is almost $1 Billion. The other portion of the $2 Billion project will go toward improving the existing water treatment plants at Lake Hefner in northwest Oklahoma City and Draper Lake near Midwest City.
He said Oklahoma City is planning on installing a line from Draper to Hefner Lake.
The water sent to Hefner will be treated water. An additional phase of Oklahoma City’s plan is to also upgrade the treatment plant at Deer Creek.
Because of this massive plan put forth by Oklahoma City, Piedmont will have to look at how it uses water and prepare to pay more for its water from Oklahoma City.
On July 1, the City of Piedmont raised its utility rates across the board, as a direct effect from Oklahoma City raising its rates. According to the letter the city sent to Piedmont residents in June, Oklahoma City holds 12 million gallons of water in reserve for Piedmont each month. The City of Piedmont pays $12,000 per month to use the reserve water.
The city pays .36 cents for every thousand gallons of water it uses. The letter reads, “This year, Oklahoma City has notified us they will raise our rates between 5 and 10 percent each year, as they have done in the past.”
According to data provided by Oklahoma City, treated water usage charges outside of Oklahoma City, which includes Piedmont, will go up 56 percent by Oct. 1, 2016.
For Service Availability Reservation Rate, the City of Piedmont is paying $1 for every thousand gallons of water it buys from Oklahoma City, effective Sept. 30.
By Oct. 1, 2016, they will pay $1.56. Because of this change, Piedmont residents’ water bills will also increase, but the exact details on how much hasn’t been confirmed yet. Also, the data shows the commodity rate from Oklahoma City will be .36 cents per thousand gallons, up to volume reserved, effective Sept. 30. As of Oct. 1, 2016, that number will rise from .36 cents to .43 cents. And, for every 1,000 gallons the city goes over its reserve, it will pay $5.23 beginning Sept. 30, and $5.57, beginning Oct. 1, 2016.
The City of Piedmont has already spoken to officials from Oklahoma City, and Crosby is planning a presentation to the Piedmont city council.
Of course, the rates will vary depending on peak demand and the reservation amount, which Piedmont relies upon.
Crosby hopes the City of Piedmont can look at the way it uses water, so eventually the city can become less reliant on buying water from Oklahoma City.
“We are relying on Oklahoma City water every month,” he said. “We have to have it.”
Although Piedmont saw a relatively mild summer, and the city didn’t have to buy as much water as it has in the past, the city will have to spend some additional money related to water, because the well line, which distributes water to Piedmont’s reservoirs will have to be replaced with a larger line, according to Crosby. The city has some water rights if it wants to distribute additional water wells, to help supplement the city’s water supply.
“We can utilize these things in the future,” Crosby said. “We need to be a little more progressive like we’ve been in the past. Should something happen with Oklahoma City and the water, we could at least get by for a short time.”