Water District explains controversial new surcharge

Water District explains controversial new surcharge

By Molly Waldron. CREATED May 11, 2012

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- For eight months, viewers have been calling and emailing us about skyrocketing water bills. Now, we're hearing from frustrated water customers slapped with a new charge. Contact 13's Tricia Kean is fighting to keep your dollars from going down the drain.

"To almost double my bill, it's ridiculous," says Gregory Christensen.

He couldn't believe his latest bill from the Las Vegas Valley Water District. He says he was aware of a new surcharge, that went into effect in April. But he wasn't expecting this.

"This new infrastucture surcharge was $16.01... They said the average homeowner would pay about an extra $5 a month," says Greg.

So why the jump? The Water District breaks it down like this: most homes have a 3/4 or 5/8 inch meter. They're the ones who will get the $5 charge. But there are some homes and most businesses with a 1 inch meter or bigger who end up paying a higher rate. And in this case, Gregory has a one inch meter.

"I don't get it. Why would it be based on the meter size," says Greg.

County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani is a member of the Board of Directors for the Water District and is asking the same thing.

"We should be looking at the gallons that are used. We shouldn't be charging people based on the size," says Giunchigliani.

But the Water District says you do have an option.

"The only alternative they have is to downsize the meter," says JC Davis, Spokesperson for the Water District.

Businesses looking to get a smaller meter are required to hire a civil engineer, plus pay about $200 for the new meter and installation. Downsizing for residential customers though is free. But the Water District says customers with larger meters tend to use more water. So if you switch to a smaller meter and continue to use large amounts of water, you could end up paying more.

"What we don't want is for them to make the decision to downsize and then have if back fire on them," says JC Davis.

But if customers like Gregory are fired up now, just wait. Giunchigliani says this surcharge is temporary.

"Everyone said this is only short term and they'll probably have to be another rate increase in 3 years," says Giunchigliani.

As for Gregory, he says he's faced enough rate hikes and doesn't think he's been treated fairly.

"I want all the residents in this city to get angry at them for this if it's going to effect them the same way," says Greg.

So here's the Contact 13 bottom line. The Water District says no one has ever downsized their meter. That could be because if you change your mind, switching to a larger meter isn't free. You could pay more than $8,000. 

If you're upset about this new surcharge, voice your complaint at the Water District's Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday, June 5th at 9:00am at the Clark County Government Center. 

If you're not getting answers from the Water District, let us know. Email us at 13investigates@ktnv.com. For Contact 13, I'm Tricia Kean.