Water conservation backfires in Redmond

REDMOND -- The price of water may be going up here next year as it likely will do Seattle by fall.

Conservation gets part of the blame. Higher well costs and expected wholesale rate increases also get the rap. The City Council got the bad news last night at a study session.

A 36 percent drop in consumption followed last year's 25 percent rate increase. If nobody took fewer showers, at least they let their lawns turn brown.

To balance the books now, the city needs at least 20 percent more revenue, and would reach that level in part with an 11.5 percent rate increase. A reserve fund could be tapped to provide the rest.

Or people could start letting their hoses run again.

If the council agrees to the recommended increase, water bills for the average household will rise about $5 a month next year.

The average Redmond household now pays just under $47 a month for its water, nearly 2 1/2 times the cost for typical Seattle customers. Water bills in Seattle now hover at just over $19 a month. A proposed Seattle rate increase would boost that to $25 in 2004.

The wholesale cost of water also is expected to increase 17 percent next year and 7.5 percent on top of that in 2004.

Redmond taps five wells for 40 percent of its water, but buys the rest from the region's biggest water wholesaler, Seattle.

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