Union County revises water rates

Some of Union County's 39,000 water customers will see their bills increase if they use a lot.

The county commissioners Monday night unanimously approved a revised rate structure that lowers the thresholds at which higher rates kick in. The changes apply mainly to residential customers, though some small businesses may be affected, Assistant County Manager Matthew Delk said.

The move came after county Public Works staff and engineering consultants warned that Union County's water sources may not be able to handle growth in daily demand in the coming years if no new capacity or water comes in.

“We're looking to find ways to slightly curtail or get people to think about the water they use,” commissioner Lanny Openshaw said.

The increase will be reflected in October's bills.

The rate structure most affects the 19 percent of customers who use more than 10,000 gallons per month. Customers using less than 10,000 gallons will not be affected. The typical Union County household uses about 7,500 gallons per month, said consultant Kevin Mosteller of Charlotte-based HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas.

Here's how it works:

The highest rate tier, $9.45 per month under non-drought conditions, will apply to customers who use more than 15,000 gallons. Under the old structure, the threshold was 18,000 gallons.

The second-highest tier, $5.45 per month, will apply to customers who use between 10,000 and 15,000 gallons per month. Previously, that rate did not kick in until a customer hit 12,000 gallons per month.

The rates in these tiers escalate if the drought worsens. Under the current water shortage alert, the base rates will be multiplied by 2.5. So a household that uses more than 15,000 gallons will pay $23.63, instead of $9.45.

The commissioners also changed the schedule for allowable outdoor watering. Households now will be assigned a specific weekday to water lawns or wash cars based on their geographic location. Under the old system, residents could water Saturdays or Sundays, depending on their house number. Within the next week, the county will send letters to customers stating exactly when they can water outdoors.

For more information, call Union County Public Works, 704-296-4210.