Water authority proposes another rate increase

BCWA customers saw 10 percent increase last year; 5 percent increase proposed

By Josh Bickford
Posted 1/19/21

Bristol County Water Authority customers should expect rate increases each year for the next 10 years, starting with a proposed 5 percent increase this year.

BCWA Executive Director Pam Marchand …

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Water authority proposes another rate increase

BCWA customers saw 10 percent increase last year; 5 percent increase proposed

Posted

Bristol County Water Authority customers should expect rate increases each year for the next 10 years, starting with a proposed 5 percent increase this year.

BCWA Executive Director Pam Marchand said the authority will hold a Zoom public hearing on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. for the proposed increase. She also said the water authority will likely request rate increases of at least 3 percent annually for the next 10 years.

The soon-to-retire executive director — Ms. Marchand’s last day with the Bristol County Water Authority is Feb. 28 — said the authority is trying to avoid the larger rate increases; she specifically mentioned the 10 percent rate increase that took effect March 1, 2020.

“Hopefully that will be the last one (increase) in that range,” Ms. Marchand said during an interview on Friday.

“We’re trying to keep it below 5 percent. Probably 3 or 4 percent.”

This year’s proposed increase would pay for a variety of projects and initiatives, BCWA authorities stated. Some of it would cover the connection to the Pawtucket water supply — the BCWA is planning a major construction project that will connect Bristol County ratepayers to a secondary water source; currently BCWA gets its water from the Scituate reservoir, which it purchases from Providence.

Authority officials are hoping to partner with East Providence on the project, as the pipeline could also serve that community. The potential partnership would reduce the cost to BCWA customers, although Ms. Marchand said the work will be done with or without East Providence’s participation.

According to a presentation by BCWA officials, the authority has built up its funding reserves over the last five years in an effort to minimize rate increases associated with the pipeline project.

This year’s proposed 5 percent increase would also be used to pay for repairs made to the cross-bay pipeline. In 2019, BCWA officials discovered a leak in the cross-bay pipeline — approximately 400,000 gallons of water leaked from the pipeline each day. The authority shut down the pipeline while officials repaired the leak, inserting an 18-inch liner pipe into the 24-inch pipeline. Approximately $140,000 of the $4 million repair work was reimbursed by insurance, BCWA officials said, with the rest coming from ratepayers.

The authority has also identified a number of additional infrastructure projects that would be funded in part by this year’s proposed increase, including improvements to the Nayatt Road pumping station; upgrades to the distribution system (replacing and cleaning cast iron pipes and concrete pipes); renovating water mains; and replacing the water storage tank located on Fountain Avenue in West Barrington.

BCWA officials are also planning to remove the Kickemuit Reservoir Dams.

Some of the proposed rate increase is tied to the authority’s ongoing effort to maintain its cash reserves, which allows for officials to receive better rates for bonds and may also “reduce future rate increases.”

Ms. Marchand said some of the increase is due to a reduction in water consumption. She said that decreased consumption forces officials to increase rates. She said water consumption among BCWA ratepayers has been trending down, although this year saw a slight difference.

“This year was a little bit better because everyone was home,” she said, adding that the area also experienced drought conditions in late summer and early fall. That drought resulted in greater consumption by East Bay homeowners.

Your bill

What would a 5 percent increase mean to the average BCWA customer?

Ms. Marchand said that someone spending about $200 every quarter on his or her water bill would see an increase of about $28 on their annual bill, or a $2.37 increase each month.

BCWA’s capital budget, 2022

• Funds for debt service for the repair of the East Bay Pipeline

• Pawtucket pipeline, Phase I

• Design of Pawtucket pipeline, Phase II

• Construction of pump station for expansion of high pressure zone

• Distribution pipeline improvements

• Required facility improvements (administration building’s new roof, repoint bricks, replace lift, etc.)

BCWA’s operations and maintenance budget, 2022

• Providence water rate increase of 19.2 percent (BCWA purchases water from Providence)

• Legal counsel for PUC intervention in continuing rate case

• Soil remediation at Hope Street tank for lead paint

• Engineering design and permitting for dam removals

• Installation of meter data collectors and computer program for billing and analysis

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