In Helper - as elsewhere - the first bath or shower of the month is always the cheapest. Now, as a result last week's city council action, that first trip to the tub will be a little cheaper.
Watch out for the last one, though.
The council enacted a new residential water rate schedule that reduces the price of the first 5,000 gallons per month by 20 percent. Rates at the low end of usage are now set at $2.00 per 1,000 gallons, down from the $2.50 the city adopted last month.
To put that in household terms, the first shower (assume eight minutes at 2.5 gallons per minute, or 20 gallons) would have cost a nickel's worth of water. Now it will be just 4 cents. (This is just for water. Making it hot costs extra.)
Mayor Dean Armstrong explained that this price break was necessary to "avoid loading the cost changes on one segment," namely, those customers who don't use a lot of water. An analysis of usage patterns showed that it would be more fair to recognize a break point at the 5,000 gallon mark, where a lot of people are clustered.
In fact, the city has fine-tuned the rate structure to produce cost-per-thousand gallon rate increase at every 5,000 gallon increment.
For example, the city had earlier set the first 10,000 gallons at $2.50 per 1,000, then $3.00 for every 1,000 gallons between 10,000 and 25,000.
The new rates look like this:
$2.00 per 1,000 gallons up to 5,000;
$2.50 up to 10,000;
$3.00 up to 15,000;
$3.75 up to 20,000;
$4.25 up to 25,000;
$4.50 up to 30,000;
and $4.75 for every 1,000 gallons over 30,000.
This means that while the price reduction at the low end will carry through for all customers - you can't get to 20,000 without using the first 5,000 - high usage customers will see substantial increases after 20,000 gallons. This is in accordance with state policy to use water rates as an incentive for conservation, Armstrong said.
So for someone who has gone over the 20,000-gallon mark, that 20-gallon shower that cost 4 cents at the beginning of the month will be 7 cents at the end.
The city has also altered its rate for winter use, when it may not be reading meters every month. That will be $19.50 for the first 10,000 gallons now, where it used to be for the first 5,000.
These rates apply only to residential water usage. Commercial rates remain the same.
Also, the $19.50 per month flat fee for operations and maintenance will stay the same.