Northern Water set to raise rates

BERTHOUD – The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District is expected to raise the rates it charges municipal and agricultural users, according to an official at the water agency.

At a public meeting Thursday, board members are likely to raise assessment rates 9 percent in 2015, and will decide at what rate in increase assessment rates in future years.

Northern Water delivers an average of 215,000 acre feet of water annually for municipal, agricultural and industrial uses in Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer, Weld and four other Colorado counties. The agency operates the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which diverts water from the Colorado River Basin to the South Platte River Basin through a system of reservoirs and tunnels.

Water rate assessments make up more than 20 percent of Northern Water’s revenue. Rate assessments are $10 per unit for open-rate irrigation contracts and $28 per unit for open-rate municipal and industrial contracts. One unit equals one acre foot, which amounts to 326,000 gallons, or enough to serve 2.5 households for one year.

Fixed-rate contract assessments total $1.50 per acre foot.

“Tomorrow’s decision is going to be a 9 percent increase almost assuredly for this year,” Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said.

Board members also will look at whether to decrease the gap between municipal and irrigation assessment rates in the coming years.

“As we’re looking 10, 15, 20 years down the road, do those get closer together or do you have that same discrepancy?” he said.

Northern Water board members also will decide on the rate of increase in assessments after 2015. The board may decide on steady increases annually over a 10-year period or a larger increase in 2016, following by smaller increases in subsequent years.

Along with rate assessments, Northern Water revenue comes from property taxes and service charges. Northern Water says property tax revenue has been “virtually flat” since the 2008 economic recession. In response, the water agency has taken steps to control expenses, including postponing filling open positions.

“The result of recent economic conditions is that in three of the previous four years, total expenses have exceeded total revenue, requiring use of reserve funds to balance Northern Water’s expenses,” according to a recent study on the matter commissioned by Northern Water.

Thursday’s meeting is to start at 1 p.m. at Northern Water’s headquarters, 220 Water Ave. in Berthoud.

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