The drought has taken enough of a toll on the area to force Cedar Park to enact its strongest watering restrictions ever while simultaneously considering an increase in water rates until conditions improve.
Cedar Park will enter Stage 3 watering restrictions starting Aug. 1, and by mid- to late August the city could increase water rates by approximately 9 percent to help offset the anticipated loss in utility revenue from the reduction in overall water usage.
The restrictions include limiting residents to watering once per week rather than twice, while water bills are expected to increase by an average of $3.80 per month per customer. The rate increase requires public hearings July 25 and Aug. 8 before it becomes official, said Sam Roberts, Cedar Park assistant city manager.
The rate increase would be temporary but is necessary to make up an estimated $1.58 million net shortfall in water utility revenue, Roberts said during the July 11 City Council meeting.
The unanticipated loss comes because stricter watering restrictions will result in less water use—thus less revenue that the city collects from residential and commercial water customers, he said.
"A reduction of water [use] does not mean a reduction in cost. It's actually the opposite of that," Roberts said, explaining that fixed costs such as long-term water debt and personnel costs contribute to the expensive nature of water systems regardless of how much residents and businesses use.
City staff suggested that if approved, the 9 percent rate increase should remain in effect until Stage 3 restrictions are lifted.
"So the idea is if the heavens open up and we get rid of Stage 3 water restrictions, this increase goes away," Mayor Matt Powell said.
If the stricter water restrictions last beyond one year, the city will re-evaluate the temporary increase, Roberts said.
Complete details of watering restrictions are available on the city's website.