COVINGTON - In an effort to encourage water conservation, the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority has adopted a new tiered rate structure that lets customers who use less pay less.
Currently, rates are structured on what's called an incline block: Customers are charged $5 per 1,000 gallons used, all the way up to 1 million gallons.
Under the new rate structure, customers will still be charged $5 per 1,000 gallons for the first 3,000 gallons used, and then charges will go up incrementally: $5.50 per 1,000 gallons for customers who use between 4,000 and 8,000 gallons, $6 per 1,000 gallons for between 8,000 and 20,000 gallons, and $6.50 for 20,000 gallons or more.
"The good news is that more than 40 percent of our residential customers will see no increase in their bill at all, and the majority of those who do will only experience a low $1 to $4 per month increase," said WASA Executive Director Mike Hopkins. "The new rate is designed to encourage the highest users to look for ways to conserve."
Most residential customers use an average of 6,000 gallons of water per month, he said.
With the current rate structure, they pay $5 per 1,000 gallons, for a total charge of $30.
Under the new rate structure, they would be charged $5 for the first 3,000 gallons, plus $5.50 for the next 3,000, for a total charge of $31.50, an increase of $1.50.
The new rates were approved by the WASA Board of Directors at its March 19 meeting, Hopkins said.
"We know the economy is straining everyone, so rather than simply raising rates across the board, we looked long and hard at ways to revise the rate structure to provide customers with options," he said.
Commercial rates were increased by 50 cents, to $4.50 per 1,000 gallons.
The new rates will go into effect May 1.
WASA may see up to a 4 to 6 percent increase in revenues with the new rates, which is needed to cover rising costs, Hopkins said.
"All of us are experiencing the impacts of the economy on our household budgets, from the gas pump to the grocery store," he said. "Unfortunately, those impacts are also felt here at the authority in the rising cost of basic materials like supplies, fuel and electricity - all needed to ensure the water our community receives remains safe."
But Hopkins said the main goal of the new rates is to encourage water conservation, and help meet Gov. Sonny Perdue's mandate of reducing water consumption by 10 percent.
Anyone with questions about the new rate structure can call the authority at 770-787-1375.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at email@example.com.