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Cedar City residents could save some money by opting into the city’s water conservation rate

CEDAR CITY — Last week, the Cedar City Council voted unanimously to approve some water acquisition ordinance changes that will provide citizens with savings or rebates if they opt-in to the city’s conservation rate for water billing.

The changes to City Ordinance Chapter 37, Section 32 would provide cost-saving options for both current homeowners and those building new homes in existing neighborhoods, Councilmember Tyler Melling told Cedar City News.

The conservation rate has its roots in the state engineer’s Groundwater Management Plan for the Cedar City Valley, Melling said.

According to the plan, water rights will be “regulated according to priority,” regardless of the nature of their use. This is because the city has been depleting the aquifer at a rate that exceeds the estimated safe yield of 21,000 acre-feet annually by approximately 7,000 acre-feet.

In response, the city has been working on a more sustainable approach, Melling said, adding that multiple changes have been made to that end.

“Every few months, we’ve gone in and made adjustments to make sure that, at the very least, we’re not losing ground,” he said.

The first step was to “make sure new development was being done sustainably and that those fees were appropriate,” Melling said. The conservation billing tier was created to incentivize new developments with a fee discount while limiting their water use and having them pay for overuse at the meter.

“Water bills do go up significantly once you use more than your allotment each month,” he said.

Before the ordinance change, residents who built homes in existing neighborhoods and other residents didn’t have “a path to take advantage of” the conservation tier, Melling said.

The water acquisition fee charged when new homes are built is currently over $24,000, Melling said, adding that the change allows for property owners in older subdivisions who have not yet constructed a home on their lot to pay a reduced rate that is likely under $10,000.

Because the fees are partly based on the current water rights appraisal, they are subject to change. The best way to determine the fee or discount for a particular project would be to contact the city, Melling said, adding that other factors, including whether the developer is providing water rights for the property, would change the amount charged.

Once a homeowner opts in for conservation billing, they are allotted 12,000 gallons of water per month, an amount Melling said will reasonably cover indoor use plus 1,000 square feet of turf. If a household exceeds that amount, their bill will include surcharges.

“They can come in at a much lower cost because then we know they’re not going to cost the taxpayer through waste,” he said.

Cedar City residents who have properties not currently subject to the conservation rate can opt-in and receive a rebate that Melling estimated could potentially be between $2,000 and $3,000 for small lots that are 10,000 square feet or less and between $3,000 and $4,500 for large lots that are over 10,000 square feet.

Though the exact rebate amounts have not been set, Melling said he expects the rebates to become available over the next few months.

While the city still needs to work through the budgeting process, funds collected from developers and “water wasters,” who have had surcharges added to their bills, have been earmarked for conservation projects and acquiring water rights, he said. The number of residents able to qualify for the rebate will likely depend on the amount of funding available.

General taxpayer funds, like those collected from property or sales tax, will not be used, he added.

To qualify for the rebate, small lot owners would need to sign an application and agreement, which will get recorded on the property, stating that they know that they are going to pay the conservation rate and keep less than 1,000 square feet of turf on their property, Cedar City attorney Tyler Romeril said at the Nov. 16 council meeting.

Owners of large lots would go through the same process with the addition of providing a statement from a licensed landscape or engineering professional stating that at least 50% of the stormwater that falls on their property during a 1-inch rainfall event will be retained there, according to the city ordinance.

A 1-inch rainfall event is when approximately 1 inch of rain falls in an hour, Cedar City senior engineer Jonathan Stathis said.

This requirement is to avoid overwhelming the city’s storm drain system, Romeril added.

Owners of property that is already subject to conservation billing restrictions may opt out by signing a new agreement with the city and either paying a water acquisition fee or deeding the city 1 acre-foot of water rights, according to the ordinance.

To learn more about qualifying for rebates, show an interest in the rebate program, request a notification for when it is implemented, or get assistance calculating a potential water acquisition fee discount, contact the city’s engineering department.


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