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DeLand water rates going up

Don't leave your faucets running - it's getting more expensive in DeLand!

Don't leave your faucets running - it's getting more expensive in DeLand!

To cope with growth, city needs money to pay for alternative sources 

As more and more people move to West Volusia each year, stressing the area’s aquifer, the problem of finding a sustainable supply of water has been pushed to the forefront.

With the cost of alternative water-supply projects in mind, DeLand city commissioners voted unanimously Aug. 7 to raise water and sewer rates over the next five years.

The city has been conducting a utility-rate study over the past several months, which found the rate increases would be necessary to help the city maintain its infrastructure and meet mandates from the St. Johns River Water Management District meant to protect the Blue Spring ecosystem.

Customers will see a 4.5-percent increase in water base facility charges and usage rates beginning Oct. 1, 2017, and each year after, through 2021.

A “typical” water-and-sewer customer, who uses 4,000 gallons monthly, will see his or her bill increase from $62.82 this year to $66.61 in 2021, according to the city.

DeLand Finance Director Dan Stauffer said about two-thirds of the city’s customers use less than 5,000 gallons per month, and will see an increase in their monthly water-usage rates of up to 40 cents, or 2.4 percent.

Customers using more water will experience substantially higher usage-rate hikes — up to 14.17 percent for customers who use around 12,000 gallons each month.

The structure of the brackets is meant to encourage conservation, Stauffer noted.

“A major component was ensuring funding for capital improvements, including alternative water-supply projects,” he said.

For sewer rates, the base facility rate will remain the same, but the per-gallon charge will increase to $4.83 per 1,000 gallons next year and remain the same through 2021.

Currently, sewage billing for residential customers is capped at 15,000 gallons a month.

That cap would drop to 10,000 gallons a month, providing some relief for heavy users on the sewage side.

The St. Johns River Water Management District set minimum flow levels for the water at Blue Spring in 2013, and the required minimum flow is set to increase each year through 2024.

For cities and other utility providers, assuring that the spring meets those flow levels means limiting the amount of groundwater they withdraw from the Floridan Aquifer.

“Ninety to 95 percent of the rate increase comes from projects we’re required to do for our CUP [consumptive use permit],” City Manager Michael Pleus said.

The Water Management District issues consumptive use permits to entities that draw water from the aquifer, including city utility systems, such as DeLand’s. The district requires water users to comply with conservation and sustainability requirements.

The increased rates will provide funding for some $20 million in alternative water-supply projects the city is required to pursue as a condition of its CUP.

- Anthony DeFeo, anthony@beacononlinenews.com


What’s driving the rate hikes?

With a growing population, municipalities across Florida are struggling to balance development with maintaining a sustainable water supply.

The state’s traditional source of water, the Floridan Aquifer, is under stress, leading water management districts, such as the St. Johns River Water Management District, to push for development of alternative water supplies.

The district set minimum flow levels for the water at Blue Spring in 2013, in a move meant to protect the manatee population and the broader ecosystem. Those flow levels are set to increase from now through 2024.

For cities and other utility providers, assuring the spring meets those required flow levels means limiting the amount of groundwater they withdraw from the aquifer.

Cities, including DeLand, are in need of funding to explore alternative water supplies, including skimming surface water from the St. Johns River to provide additional reclaimed water supplies, or building well fields in the eastern part of the county.


How are the water rates changing?

NOW: $1.94 per thousand gallons for the first 8,000 gallons, $4.06 per thousand for 8,001 to 12,000 gallons, and $6.10 per thousand for any water used beyond that.

BEGINNING OCT. 1: $2.02 per thousand for the first 5,000 gallons, $3.33 per thousand for 5,001 to 10,000 gallons, $5.25 per thousand for 10,001 through 15,000 gallons, and $6.26 per thousand for any water used beyond 15,000 gallons per month.

The rates will continue to increase each year through 2021.

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