Letter: BCWA customers, here is why your rates are increasing

Posted 1/24/20

Water is one of our most valuable resources. We were acutely reminded of this last year when our only source of supply, the East Bay Pipeline, was found to have a leak and needed to be shut down for …

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Letter: BCWA customers, here is why your rates are increasing


Water is one of our most valuable resources. We were acutely reminded of this last year when our only source of supply, the East Bay Pipeline, was found to have a leak and needed to be shut down for repair.
Throughout the summer, each of BCWA’s customers experienced a reduction in water supply and, at times, mandatory water restrictions. We were fortunate to have an emergency backup connection with the City of East Providence. This provided us with a limited water supply, saving us from a catastrophic event. Nonetheless, the leak posed significant challenges for our utility and our customers.

Operationally, the two leaks found in this 20-year-old pipeline were a surprise to all involved, as the pipeline had an expected lifespan of 100 years. Financially, the repair cost an unplanned $4 million. From a sustainability standpoint, the leak shone a spotlight on the urgent need for BCWA’s proposed secondary supply, the Pawtucket Pipeline.

BCWA’s ongoing commitment is to provide all of our customers with a safe, high quality, and reliable water supply. To provide for this, the BCWA Board of Directors has approved a rate increase of 10 percent for fiscal year 2021. Under this rate increase, which begins on water used after March 1, 2020, we estimate the average residential water bill will rise approximately $4.77 per month ($57.27 per year).

We understand that rate increases of any kind affect our customers’ households and businesses. This increase enables us to most effectively address the future needs of our customers and the communities we serve, including the funding of critical capital projects (some are outlined below), maintaining reserve funds, and supplementing reduced revenues caused by declining water consumption.

This year we are constructing Phase 1 of the new Pawtucket Pipeline ($6 million). This large capacity connection to East Providence Water will provide BCWA with a more adequate secondary water supply. However, East Providence’s water also comes from the Providence Water system; and should there be a restriction on use or a shutdown, both East Providence and BCWA would be without a water supply.
Phase 2 of the project will be the installation of a water transmission main from the East Providence storage tank to the Pawtucket Water Supply Board. Pawtucket Water has a high-quality water supply served by a new treatment plant and a fully renovated transmission and distribution system.

The design for Phase 2 has begun, with construction scheduled to start in 2022. The estimated cost of the project is $36 million, with one-half of the cost included in the BCWA 10-year capital budget plan. The City of East Providence may join in the project, as they are equally in need of a redundant water supply. Should this occur, the project cost would be shared equitably.

Distribution System Improvements: 
BCWA’s proposed 2020 distribution system improvements include water main renovations ($2.2 million), construction of a new pump station at the Hope St. storage tank ($2.2 million), expansion of the high-pressure zone in Bristol, and installation of a data collection system to tie into the new meters which were installed this past year.

Operations and Maintenance: 
BCWA’s general operations and maintenance expenses continue to remain low. Increases that were added to the budget account for repairs and maintenance to the elevated Metacom tank in Bristol, environmental remediation of soils at the Hope St. tank, and engineering services for the removal of the Kickemuit dams (to be supplemented with grant funds).

Providence Water Rate Hike: 
BCWA purchases all of its water supply from Providence Water, which also supplies 60 percent of the State. Providence Water has recently filed with the Public Utilities Commission a rate increase proposal of 20.7 percent for wholesale purchasers. BCWA, alongside Kent County Water, have filed a motion to intervene and fight this large rate hike as we have been successful in preventing such increases in the past. However, the process is expensive, requiring both legal and financial council as we dispute the case.
This on-going rate dispute, as well as the uncertain future of Providence Water in general, again provides another reason for pursuing our connection to Pawtucket Water, and it positions us to be more frugal by balancing our purchase quantities between the Pawtucket and Providence supplies.

Imagine a Day Without Water: 
Last year, this national recognition day was on October 23 – on one of the several days in which our primary water supply from the East Bay Pipeline was shut down. We never again want to realize a day – or any length of time – without a clean, safe, reliable water supply.

We hope you agree. As always, we appreciate your continued support. If you have any questions, please call 401-245-2022 or contact us at bcwari.com.

Pamela M. Marchand
Ms. Marchand is the executive director of the Bristol County Water Authority.

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