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Side Notes 6/4-6/10 

Myths and facts about water rates and conservation


Last week, we chatted with City Policy Analyst Gillian Ockner and Water Conservation Manager Mike Buettner about changes to water and sewer rates and the City's efforts to encourage conservation. Over the course of the conversation, they busted a few myths—get the facts below.

MYTH: Water rates are going up for all Bend residents.

FACT: Because the new rate structure removes the 400 cubic foot allowance for water use, residents will have more control over their bill. As a result, low water users may end up paying less for water and sewer. And medium users will have an incentive to conserve.

MYTH: Council is just looking to line the City's pockets with these fee increases.

FACT: "Equity was a high priority for the Council," Ockner explains. "[They] wanted every drop of water to cost the same."

The City's water and sewer rate structures and fee increases are designed to be revenue-neutral, meaning that they are meant to cover the cost of delivering services, but not to generate surplus.

MYTH: Golf courses are the largest user of City water.

FACT: Approximately 60 percent if the City's water is delivered to residential customers, at least as of 2008, Buettner says. Of that water, about 60 percent is used outdoors.

Most golf courses use wells; the City only delivers water to one golf course. Similarly, the Bend Park and Recreation District uses water from a variety of sources, and doesn't rank highly on the list of the City's top non-residential water users. Who does? Bend-La Pine Schools.

MYTH: There's no point targeting landscape watering; people will never give up their lawns.

FACT: The City has a pilot program to help large water users evaluate their budget for watering and find ways to increase efficiency without changing the nature of the landscaping.

"The first conversation is about efficiency," Buettner says, noting that a homeowner would be foolish to install solar panels before first ensuring that their overall energy use was efficient. But it doesn't stop there. "We'll get to the point where turf removal programs are part of the conversation."

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