The town’s water and sewer rates are up, to take effect with this coming September’s bill, but the amount that individual bills will increase depends on how much water each resident uses – and how much he or she conserves.
The Board of Selectmen last month approved an 11.4 percent increase in the combined water and sewer rate.
People look at the water and sewer rate as how much more they’ll pay, Assistant Town Manager for Finance Robert LeLacheur told Patch. But your bill equals the rate times your usage, he emphasized.
And Reading as a whole does conserve water, LeLacheur said. The town uses less water, per person, he said, than many communities with it in the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority system.
With questions and comments about the rate increase posed to Patch, LeLacheur spoke with us yesterday about the effect of the rate increase on bills.
The median combined water and sewer bill in Reading right now is $1,200, LeLacheur said. If people who pay that amount use the same amount of water in the coming year, they would pay 11.4 percent more, or a total of $1,338. But if they reduce their water use by five percent, they would pay $1,270, he said. If they use 11 percent less water this coming year, LeLacheur said, their bill would remain $1,200.
The water and sewer rate picture has a number of moving parts. If people use less water than officials anticipate, the town collects less in its water fund. That’s why the selectmen voted last month to use $200,000 from a water reserve fund, and the same amount from a sewer reserve fund, to keep the rate from increasing more significantly next fiscal year.
The funds are also down, LeLacheur told the selectmen, because people are paying their water and sewer bills on time, reducing the fee the town collects on late payments.
The water rate will rise from $8.27 per 100 cubic feet to $8.96 per hundred cubic feet; the sewer rate, from $8.57 to $9.80 per hundred cubic feet.
People have also commented to Patch on the taste and smell of the water, which has been coming from the MWRA since May of 2006.
At that time, the town turned to the MWRA to help meet peak summer water demand, according to Peter Tassi, supervisor of the town’s water quality and supply.
The town started to buy all of its water from the MWRA, instead of the Ipswich River watershed, in September, 2006, Tassi said.
Tassi said he didn’t receive calls about the smell or taste of the water then, or recently.
The smell and taste of the water can change, he said, for several reasons. Hydrant flushing, for example, which started recently. Or water line flushing, which is done every spring.
Or when the water comes from an open reservoir, like the MWRA supply, rather than underground, as from the town’s former local water source. When the open water gets cold, it becomes denser, and sinks, Tassi said, and water from the bottom of the reservoir rolls up to the surface. Some people are more sensitive than others, he said, to those changes.