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Folsom prepares for citywide water metering

By May 5, 2011

Folsom residents will begin paying metered water rates by March 2013.

Until recently, the city of Folsom has charged a flat rate for residential water use. Without meters, every home had been billed the same, no matter the neighborhood or the number of residents. The intent was to treat all city water service customers equally.

Rates did differentiate between single family, single family low-income, manufactured homes, manufactured homes low-income, additional residences, additional lots and swimming pools with filters. But all homes in the same categories were billed the same.

That practice is now in conflict with recent state laws.

One of the laws, passed in 2004, requires urban water contractors to determine and impose a water rate based upon the actual volume of metered water delivered through a water meter.

In addition, as a member of the Sacramento Water Forum, Folsom agreed to install water meters.

Another legislative requirement mandates a 20 percent reduction in per capita water use statewide by Dec. 31, 2020. Water meters are necessary in order to measure how much water is used, and any reduction that might be realized.

The city is required to have water meters installed on all residential water services within the city service area by January 2013 and begin charging customers based on their consumption by March 2013. The rate has to generate 70 percent of the total revenue for the service.

Cities that do not comply are not eligible for state water grants, loans or financial assistance, which would likely result in increased water rates.

In the northern Folsom neighborhood of Ashland, served by the San Juan Water District, water meters have been installed. An interim meter rate was set in 2005. This will be adjusted to conform with the rest of the city’s rates.

The Folsom City Council adopted a Water Meter Implementation Plan for city water deliveries in August 2007. At the time, the council contemplated installing a fixed network system to approximately 6,000 homes phased over 10 years, mostly in the newer neighborhoods. The fixed network reduces long-term labor costs by using computer readings. In 2009, the size of the fixed network was extended citywide, to approximately 20,000 homes.

The plan also includes water conservation education, customer service and meter maintenance.

On April 26, Folsom Utilities Department Senior Engineer Todd Eising requested that the City Council approve an Updated Water Meter Implementation Plan. As the Utilities Department has been implementing the program, staff recognized changes that would benefit the program.

Originally, the schedule for conversion to residential metered rates was to be complete by January 2012. Eising recommended extending that for one year. During 2012, residential customers will receive their flat bill for payment plus another metered rate bill showing the volume of water used and what the bill would be under that plan. Residential customers will have a year to adjust their water usage. City councilmember Kerri Howell commented that in other areas customers typically are able to reduce their use by 20 percent when they see the actual numbers.

While the fixed network is becoming operational, contract meter readers will provide the information.

If the city did not take action, future water projects would be at risk. Eisling said in the past five years the city has obtained around $1 million in state and federal grants for water projects. In the next two years, the city is planning to apply for $2-3 million more.

The Folsom City Council approved a resolution adopting the Updated Water Meter Implementation Plan, 4-1. Mayor Andy Morin and council members Steve Miklos, Jeff Starsky and Kerri Howell voted in favor. Vice Mayor Ernie Sheldon opposed the resolution, saying he thought the metered rates should begin January 2012.

Roberta Long


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