Douglas could consolidate lake and valley water districts |

Douglas could consolidate lake and valley water districts

Matthew Renda
Nevada Appeal News Service

DOUGLAS COUNTY – Douglas County residents are weary of paying water bills they consider unduly expensive.

“When I received my water bills and noticed that when you added them up, they were higher than my annual property tax, I realized something was wrong,” said Cave Rock resident Tom Bond.

Cave Rock residents will pay about $181 a month in 2010, assuming they have the smallest meter, 3⁄4 inch, and use 18,000 gallons a month. That number could increase each year due to capital projects. Estimates project that Cave Rock residents could pay $303 a month in 2014.

For this reason, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners is considering consolidating Cave Rock water utility district with seven other small independent districts in the hope of reducing costs, managing rate structures, integrating water treatment facilities and centralizing infrastructure.

“The way the current system is structured is unsustainable,” said Carl Ruschmeyer, director for Douglas County public works.

During the March 18 commission meeting, the board members asked Douglas County staff to begin preparing a resolution that would consolidate the eight independent water utility districts into one. Cave Rock’s water system would be joined together with Zephyr Water Utility District, Skyland, County Fairgrounds, West Valley, East Valley, Jobs Peak and Sheridan Acres water systems.

The resolutions, once created, could be voted on by early June, Ruschmeyer said.

Under the new consolidated system, Cave Rock residents could pay about $108 per month in 2014 due to the equitable distribution of costs throughout the eight utility districts.

However, not everyone thinks the equitable distribution is fair.

Jack Van Dien, a Douglas County resident who lives in the valley, said the proposed consolidation represented a “reverse Robin Hood effect,” where the county takes from valley residents of modest means and gives to richer lakeside residents.

Under the current district alignment, West Valley water district residents pay $40 a month in 2010 and stand to pay $69 a month in 2014. Under the consolidated alignment, those residents would pay the same $108 per month as the rest of the districts, including Cave Rock.

So while residents of the lakeside utility districts could benefit from consolidation, they will do so to the detriment of those down the hill, said Van Dien.

However, Douglas County Manager T. Michael Brown said all residents in all eight districts will get more bang for their buck under the consolidated system.

“This is about the future,” Brown said. “This is about managing local economies to scale and make water service better and more efficient for everyone.”

Ruschmeyer said that many of the treatment facilities in the valley are not up to federal standards, particularly in terms of arsenic treatment standards. Consolidation will ensure safe drinking water is delivered to homes throughout the district, regardless of location, he said.