Our Water System – How It Works
To promote a better understanding of how our water system works we present the following information:
Water and You
Tap water may not come to mind very often, yet it is a very important matter. Safe and reliable drinking water is a critical component of public health and safety.
Water System Safeguards
To ensure that our water system provides a safe and reliable supply of drinking water we have the following measures in place:
- Certified water operators providing round-the-clock coverage
- Remote monitoring and security systems at all facilities
- Compliance with all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) testing and reporting requirements
- Engineering and water-rights planning and administration
- Multi-year budgeting
- Development review and infrastructure inspections
- Emergency Response Plan
- Backflow Prevention and Cross-connection Control Program
The “Water Metering Act” Colorado Revised Statutes §37-97-103
One of the more significant state regulations impacting our customers has been the Water Metering Act. This act requires public water systems with more than 600 users to provide metered water delivery to its customers. Most water providers placed this financial burden on their customers. However, Fraser sought and received a grant to subsidize the cost of the meter installation project.
Meter Reading and Billing
Quarterly water statements now include information regarding meter reads. Please refer to the overview “How to read your Utility Statement” for assistance in understanding what is shown on the utility bill.
Water Service Fees
The Town operates the Water System as an Enterprise Fund outside the General Budget. It is funded through water service fees and viewed as a business enterprise. All expenses and revenues associated with the service are accounted for within the Water Fund.
As a policy matter, the Town has not always attributed all expenses and revenues associated with producing and delivering water within the Water Fund. In years past, decisions were made to subsidize water expenditures by using funds from the General Fund to pay for some expenses. While this kept water rates lower, it reduced available dollars to address other general functions of the Town and, more importantly, did not provide savings for capital improvement projects.
Expenses associated with providing water service include:
- Wages and benefits of employees who operate the system
- Operating costs such as electricity and other supplies necessary for water treatment
- Consulting fees for engineers and water attorneys
- Permitting and testing fees
- Maintenance of infrastructure (flushing hydrants, replacing worn parts, etc.)
- Emergency repairs
Revenues within the Water Fund include:
- Customer service fees
- Tap fees associated with new development
- Grants; and
- Transfers from the General Fund to the Water Fund.
Our small customer base must fund the water system which has all the components of a larger urban water system over which the costs are shared by a larger customer base.
The Town's current water base rate is $153.00 per SFE each quarter, with a water consumption rate of $1.50 per 1,000 gallons used. The Town Board annually reviews and establishes the rate based upon the costs of producing and delivering water to customers.
How We Develop Rates
As part of the annual budget process, the Town projects expenses and revenues for the upcoming year. Projected revenues from water service rates are compared against the costs of producing and delivering water to users.
Every rate structure has its challenges. Revenues from service fees should cover expenses associated with providing water service. As we annually evaluate our metered rate structure, we can better evaluate how to charge a more equitable rate for our specific user groups, i.e. commercial, seasonal and full-time customers.
By virtue of being a public utility, every customer of the water system is essentially a partner, or part owner of the system. While the provision of water service is similar to a business, it is not driven by profits or returns. If there were excess revenues over expenditures, they would be maintained within the Water Fund to be available in case of any unforeseen emergencies. Currently, the fund has no such reserves. We are all in this together and must work toward solutions that benefit all of our users.
Whether customers use a minimal amount of water or not, the system always needs to be prepared to serve the maximum amount of users and to provide fire protection flows for a home that may be vacant at the time. Thus, any metered rate structure will include a base rate, or availability of service rate.
The challenge is balancing a rate structure that covers both full-time users and part-time users (our system serves 50% full-time and 50% part-time users). This policy matter will need to be addressed by the Town Board as they evaluate options and ultimately adopt any changes.
To provide a safe and reliable supply of quality drinking water at a reasonable cost to customers. Significant funds have been expended over recent years on improvements to the water system, including the following:
- Drilling of a new well, replacement of leaking water mains and associated infrastructure to ensure an adequate supply of water and to minimize potential cross-connection issues.
- Introduction of a water conditioning agent for corrosion control to minimize the effects which metals (leaching from lead and copper from pipes or household fixtures) have on the water system.
- Maintaining an Emergency Response Plan.
- Installing generators to maintain water operations in emergency situations.
- Connection of our two independent water treatment facilities into one system.
- Implementation of remote monitoring and security systems at all facilities.
- Rehabilitation of production wells to ensure an adequate supply of water.
Future Concerns for our Water System
Town officials work diligently to stay current with pending and proposed legislation that impacts the regulatory standards. These changing standards continue to place additional operational burdens on system operators. The result is that as our costs continue to increase (electricity, chemicals for water treatment, additional regulatory requirements, etc.) those increased costs are allocated across our current, rather small, user base.
What Can Be Done? Get Involved.
Town Board meetings are held first and third Wednesdays of the month at 7:00 p.m. in the Town Hall. Board meeting agendas are posted on the website and at the Fraser post office.
The Water and Wastewater Committee is the origin for many discussions regarding water system projects, rates and policy. Learn more about this committee!
Elections for Town Board Trustees are held every two years. New ideas by new trustees often bring new solutions. The Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Adjustment (appointed positions not directly involved with water matters), are great venues to begin your involvement and become engaged with local issues.
In the fall, the Town holds a series of Budget hearings for the upcoming fiscal year. The final budget is available on line. Although we typically see very little public participation in these discussions, we encourage your attendance, comments and suggestions. Get involved!