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Water district approves rate increase

Typical customer will see bimonthly bill rise $10

To no one’s surprise – but to some of its customers’ dismay – the Tualatin Valley Water District’s Board of Directors on Aug. 17 voted to raise a typical customer’s bimonthly bill by just over $10.

The 14.5 percent increase, totaling about $60 annually, lands atop a similar rise in water costs implemented a year ago as the district finds the money to build its share of a costly Willamette River water supply project and deals with other rising expenses.

“A 15 percent increase is pretty hard to take right now,” district resident William Pokorny told TVWD Board of Directors during a public hearing that preceded the unanimous vote. A handful of other people also spoke during the hearing, with most concerned about the rapid cost increase.

“We recognize this is a significant rate increase. We recognize this is multiple years of significant rate increases,” said Mark Knudson, chief executive officer of the district.

The district recently convened a new advisory committee that will examine water rate affordability and come up with recommendations to the board, potentially including tiered rate structures or other strategies to help lower-income residents across its boundaries, which stretches from eastern Hillsboro to northern Tigard and includes much of the unincorporated areas around Beaverton.

The Willamette Water Supply Program, a partnership with TVWD, Hillsboro and potentially Beaverton and other jurisdictions across eastern and central Washington County, is designed to supply drinking water in the coming decades to a much more populated county and to be more resilient with major disruptions, including a potential catastrophic earthquake experts say eventually will strike the region and break current lines.

While costly in the coming years, TVWD officials said the project eventually will stabilize their customers’ water costs and making supplies more secure compared to ever-rising wholesale water prices from sources including the Portland Water Bureau, the source of part of TVWD’s water today.

“We all hate doing this (increase) but we also have to do it for the sake of Washington County and our customers,” said board member Jim Doane.

Beside the Willamette project, the increased rates also help pay for seismic upgrades and new reservoirs, pipelines and pump stations across the system.

The district’s estimated cost of $5.13 more per month is for a typical residential customer with a smaller meter size who uses about 5,200 gallons of water (or 7 CCF) in that month. Residential and business customers who have larger meters and consume more water would see correspondingly higher bills.