New water rates to provide for long-term

By Kathy Wright: guest columnist

As a lifelong resident of the Clovis area, I have been proud to see our community grow and prosper.

I shared the joy of many to hear that Cannon Air Force Base has a new mission, and what a mission it is! Cannon is the economic engine of our community and its continued operation is good news for all of us.

In my role as the vice president and manager of New Mexico American Water in Clovis, I’d like to think that my team provides the “steam” to power our economic engine: a high-quality, reliable supply of water.

Our greatest challenge in operating the water system is to make sure we have an adequate long-term water supply to meet current and future demand.

In order to promote conservation and fund capital improvements to create new sources of water, New Mexico American Water recently requested an increase in water rates from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (NMPRC).

As with any application to the NMPRC, this filing marks the beginning of a process to modify our rates to promote conservation and provide the revenue necessary to fund operations and improvements to the water system.

This is an open and transparent process that allows for customer input. I look forward to working with our customers to produce a plan that balances investment, conservation and cost.

In effect, we are asking our Clovis families to pay about 30 cents a day to fund infrastructure projects that will improve the supply and reliability of the Clovis water system and cover increased operating costs.

One of the best ways to “create” new water supplies is to conserve what we already have. That’s why our rate increase request includes several new conservation programs, including rebates of up to $250 for customers who install low-flow toilets, $125 for high-efficiency washing machines, and up to $800 for customers who install water-efficient landscaping.

We are also proposing a new tiered rate structure to promote conservation. Tiered rates promote conservation by increasing costs for water based upon usage. We are proposing a three-tier system with cost increases for residential customers who use more than 4,500 gallons of water per month and those who use more than 15,000 gallons per month.

Residential customers who use more than 15,000 gallons per month will also be subject to a surcharge to fund conservation programs.

The largest single cost associated with our rate case is an investment to refurbish irrigation wells on the Oppliger Property for domestic use, which is expected to cost $1,684,820. Not only does this project provide new locations for wells in Clovis, it reduces the total amount of water drawn out of our aquifer.

In addition to augmenting the water supply and implementing new conservation programs, our business is not unlike others. We have increased employee benefit costs, rising costs of power and fuel, and increasing interest rates, which make capital more expensive. Some of the other major infrastructure projects for Clovis include spending $1,559,301 to replace the North Forty Booster Station (originally constructed in 1945) and installing 13,600 feet of 12-inch water main at the city’s Industrial Development Park for $738,069.

All of these are needed costs, but all of them affect the rate for water service.

In the coming months we will provide our customers with many opportunities to learn more about our plan and provide input.

I am looking forward to working together with all of our customers so we can secure a stable, long-term supply of water for Clovis, do more to promote conservation and wise water use, and ensure that reliable, high-quality water remains affordable to everyone in Clovis.

Kathy Wright is vice president and manager of New Mexico American Water Company in Clovis. Contact her at: kwright@amwater.com