Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Water Rate Decision

The Clark County Commission today tackled the thorny issue of water rates and came back with an increase for Las Vegas users that wasn’t everything it could be, but kicked up the rates for the heaviest volume users by more than 32 percent. I served on the advisory committee and worked to increase the rates for high-volume users as much as possible to encourage conservation.
The down side is that the commission, acting as the board of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, also increased rates for minimal users – those who really can’t do much to cut back any more than they already have – by more than 10 percent. Increasing the rates for minimal users just reduced the pressure on high volume users as the water district worked to increase revenue by 23 percent overall.
I took the opportunity to praise the idea that conservation is a good idea, and noted more must be done, but I also scolded the commission for not dealing with the bottom line: Growth. I pointed out what conservationists throughout the Colorado River Basin States and water customers from all over the Las Vegas Valley know: Every drop we save in Las Vegas through conservation will go to new development.
And since we are using price as a mechanism to conserve, growth is directly impacting the pocketbooks of every residential and business customer of Las Vegas. We are subsidizing the growth machine, “feeding the beast.”
I encouraged the commission to start an open, honest discussion about growth. Commissioner Tom Collins argued that growth is paying for growth and the county’s “growth task force” several years back proved it and so there is endless room for more tract houses and non-union neighborhood casinos and growth is good so there.
Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani – who deserves a medal or something for standing up to the growth industry – pointed out that more could be done. She particularly spotlighted the golf course industry. (If her car blows up like Lefty’s in the movie Casino, look for golf tees scattered around the scene of the crime.)
Giunchiliani, who valiantly worked to eliminate service-fee increases for minimal users, was the only “no” vote on the final package.
Commission Chairman Rory Reid deserves a nod, however, for granting the conservation community what may be the most important win of the day: Simply keeping the conversation open. He joined Chris G. and Susan Brager in requesting that the water district staff come back with info on the effectiveness of the conservation pricing and for discussion of changes to pricing to commercial customers – including, significantly, multi-family housing.
PLAN joins other conservationists and the business community – an uncommon pairing – in concern about the impact the new rates will have on some institutional users. Right now, apartment complexes and similar multi-family units are charged at the highest (fourth tier) rate, even though on a per person basis, the residents of those communities are among the thriftiest water consumers in Las Vegas or, for that matter, in the country. So PLAN plans to submit suggestions in the near future for easing the impact on those folks as part of the ongoing discussion on water, growth and conservation issues.

1 comment:

mom_in_las_vegas said...

Yup, you have to give Chris G credit for always speaking her mind. Here's another blog on government water waste if you are interested.