The rate change was suggested in response to an exponential increase in the amount of water being purchased from the shop, Moab City Manager Donna Metzler said.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of companies that are purchasing water,” she said, pointing out that the increased truck traffic through the city yard has been disruptive to the employees there.
Moab City Council member Heila Ershadi said that area residents have also complained about the increase in truck traffic around the yard.
“We’ve also seen an increase in the actual amount of total water purchased,” Metzler said.
According to Metzler, the city sold 4.1 million gallons of water to commercial hauling companies in 2010. During the first six months of this year, the city has already sold more than double that amount, at 9.8 million gallons.
Moab City Mayor David Sakrison expressed concern that a lot of the water that is being purchased at the city facility is being used for construction and drilling projects.
“A lot of this water is being dumped on the road for dust suppression,” he said. “Is that really the best use of culinary water?”
Metzler said that the previous rate of $2.24 per thousand gallons was one of the lowest rates in the area, which proved to be an incentive for companies to purchase their water from the city.
Council member Doug McElhaney disagreed with raising the rates.
“The people who own these businesses are Moab residents or Grand County residents or they employ residents,” he said. “If we were running out of water, then we’d need to do something, but I’d hate do to this kneejerk reaction and end up costing them their jobs.”
Metzler said she didn’t expect the fee increase to have a significant impact on the businesses.
“This rate is so low it’s not putting anyone out of business,” Metzler said.
Council member Gregg Stucki agreed.
“If this was a price per gallon, it would be different,” he said, pointing out that the rate increase would only amount to around $20 for a truck capable of hauling 6,000 gallons of water.
Council member Kirstin Peterson said that, with the current uncertainty of the water situation in Moab and Grand County, the increased rates are needed.
“I don’t think we can afford to wait until the water is depleted,” she said.
Metzler said that raising the rates was just one of many options to help curb the purchase of culinary water at the shop. After discovering that many of the haulers had obtained keys and key-codes to access the public works yard after hours, Metzler said the locks were changed.
“They will be limited to access Monday through Friday [during regular hours],” she said.
Sakrison has also been in talks with the Bureau of Land Management to try and find a suitable location for a pumping station on the Colorado River, which would provide an alternative to the culinary water that both the city of Moab and Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency provide to commercial water haulers.
Ultimately, the council voted to increase the water rate to $5.50 per thousand gallons for commercial entities. Government organizations that purchase water at the city yard will continue to pay the previous rate.
Peterson suggested the rate, which was higher than the $4.10 per thousand gallons that Moab city staff had recommended.
“I think, if the intent is to cover the true costs of providing the service and possibly provide disincentive for them to buy their water here, the higher rate makes sense.”
Council member Kyle Bailey agreed that the rates needed to be raised immediately.
He said $5.50 is “low, but it’s a start.”
Stucki said it remains to be seen if the rate increase will actually reduce the amount of water being used for industrial projects.
“Sometimes we’re just shifting it, and we’re not really affecting the impact on our water source,” he said.
The resolution passed 4-1, with McElhaney voting against it.