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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Washington County raises water rates by 10 cents per 1,000 gallons

Washington County’s water resources are strained from the region’s drought and the growing population.
Lexi Peery
Washington County’s water resources are strained from the region’s drought and the growing population.

The Washington County Water Conservancy District has voted in favor of raising water rates. The 10-cent per-thousand gallon increase applies to secondary water users and municipalities.

Prices are going up pretty much everywhere, and that includes the cost of the chemicals used to treat water, according to Zach Renstrom, general manager for the water district. There are also some large projects the district is working on.

The rate increase is a small change, but he said that’s on purpose.

“I know I get criticized for this — I try to make water as cheap as possible for individuals because we have a lot of people on fixed incomes, we have a lot of senior citizens,” he said. “If they're using water wisely, I want them to have the lowest water bill possible.”

Some environmentalists in Utah advocate for raising water rates in the hopes of lowering water use. Ed Andrechak, vice president of Conserve Southwest Utah, predicted the increase will only help cover additional costs for a year or maybe two.

Since the region faces serious strains to its water supply from the drought and growing population, Andrechak would like to see the district go even further in raising rates.

“If it gives them more money to implement expensive capital projects, that will increase the water supply — we don't want to run out of water — that's a great idea,” he said. “I'm for that.”

Renstrom said he’s all for charging people who use too much water. Last year the district implemented a $1 surcharge per-thousand gallons for people using over 36,000 gallons monthly. A typical household in the county, he said, uses 8,000 gallons of water per month during the winter, in the summer it jumps to 22,000 gallons. That’s because about half of the county’s water is used outdoors.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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