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Broomfield eyes new water rate system

Broomfielders who conserve water could see a reduction in their utility bills under a new proposal to switch the city and county over to a tiered fee system for water usage.
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Broomfielders who conserve water could see a reduction in their utility bills under a new proposal to switch the city and county over to a tiered fee system for water usage. 

Currently, all Broomfield residents pay the same rate for water regardless of how much they use every month – $3.36 per 1,000 gallons used across the board. 

But under the proposed structure, people who use less water would pay a lower fee, while people who use more would pay a higher fee. 

If approved by City Council, Broomfield residents who use 1,000-5,000 gallons per month would pay $2.26 per 1,000 gallons. Homes that use between 5,001-20,000 gallons per month would pay $3.33 per 1,000 gallons, and people who use more than 20,000 gallons a month would pay $4.52 per 1,000 gallons. 

The rate for multi-family residences would be $2.44 per 1,000 gallons used. 

The proposal also includes yearly rate increases totalling about 20 cents per 1,000 gallons by 2027. 

The recommendations, which also encompass changes to sewer, wastewater and license fees, come from a rate study commissioned by the city and county. 

Part of that process was determining the best way to encourage water conservation, city and county staff wrote in a memo to City Council. 

“This shift is intended to promote and encourage conservation around peak demand periods that may be associated with lawn watering and outside activities,” staff wrote. 

The change makes sense to resident Paul Brynteson, who moved to Broomfield from Flagstaff, Arizona 14 years ago to be closer to family. 

Flagstaff also had a tiered rate structure, Brynteson said. 

“It was exponential so it encouraged people to conserve,” he said. “Yes, you’ll have water for basic functions of your home but if you start using a lot and you want a lot of grass, you’re going to pay extra for it. I think it’s a really sound way to encourage people to use less water, which may be an incentive to do some xeriscaping.” 

Moving from the desert, Brynteson said he and his wife were already comfortable with the idea of needing to be careful with water. 

But the proposal has also raised some red flags for homeowners associations worried about being classified as residential users to water neighborhood parks. 

RedLeaf Homeowners Association President Larry Hardouin is currently working with city officials on ways to make sure residents in the neighborhood aren’t paying to irrigate one- and two-acre neighborhood parks at the same rate as homeowners with sprawling private lawns. 

“We learned that our parks, in the billing system, are tagged as single-family homes and that’s what started the conversation, being told by the city our water bill would increase by 35% on Jan. 1,” Hardouin said. 

Hardouin said he agrees that water conservation is important and that parks can be used to that end by encouraging people to walk a short distance to enjoy green space with their neighbors rather than maintain one in their backyard. 

The neighborhood isn’t connected to reclaimed water that’s used to irrigate other parks, which is also a challenge. 

“The question I have for City Council that I think would really help us is what does City Council see as the vision for this. If single-family homes continue to reduce water and therefore neighborhood parks are critical, I think we should be treated fairly because the service we provide is really important,” Hardouin said. 

City Council gave the new water, sewer and wastewater rates an initial thumbs-up this month and is set to hold a public hearing and final vote on the ordinances on Oct. 25.