Rainbow Water District allows meter size reductions

The update of the Rainbow Water District capacity charges included allowing for smaller meters.

The Rainbow board voted 4-0, with Hayden Hamilton absent, July 27, to approve the revisions in the district’s capacity fee ordinance which also changes the wastewater capacity fee variable for single-family homes from number of bedrooms to square footage of the house.

Capacity fees are one-time charges to developers who purchase system capacity for water and sewer services.

“It’s primarily a buy-in charge,” Rainbow general manager Tom Kennedy said.

The water and sewer capacity fees are calculated based on system asset value, capital improvement plans, existing debt, reserve balance and consumer characteristics. Rainbow’s capacity calculations are based on an estimated use of 545 gallons per day of water and 180 gallons per day of wastewater for each equivalent dwelling unit.

Rainbow’s water system is currently built out, and demand has been reduced by approximately 50 percent since the peak year of 1990. Rainbow staff thus does not anticipate any major expansions in the future to meet demands other than expansions associated with development projects, so the developers will be buying into the existing system rather than a combination of the existing system and planned future improvements.

The water capacity charge, not including the San Diego County Water Authority charge which is collected by Rainbow and forwarded to the SDCWA, is now $6,241 for a 5/8-inch meter, $10,401 for a 3/4-inch meter, $16,642 for a 1-inch meter, $27,043 for a 1 1/2-inch meter, $62,406 for a 2-inch meter, $124,812 for a 3-inch meter and $208,020 for a 4-inch meter.

The 5/8-inch meter classification has been reinstated. Homes on lots less than 5,000 square feet and with irrigation of less than 1,000 square feet can qualify for the 5/8-inch meter. A requirement was also added that a home with a lot less than 21,780 square feet or half an acre can qualify for a 3/4-inch meter.

Building code requirements involving fire sprinklers may require a 3/4-inch or 1-inch meter to meet fire sprinkler flow demand; if a developer qualifies for a smaller capacity meter but must have a larger meter for fire flow requirements, a meter one size larger may be installed and a fire standby charge of $5 per month will be assessed. The fire standby charge was already in effect for the Vista Valley area, and the revised ordinance allows it for the entire Rainbow district contingent upon written confirmation from the fire district with jurisdiction over the area.

“We want to be able to go in and put a smaller meter in when people are using less water,” Kennedy said. “They’ll still realize their existing capacity. They just won’t have that same meter.”

The fixed monthly meter operations and maintenance charge for municipal and industrial accounts is $23.82 for a 5/8-inch or 3/4-inch meter, $37.20 for a 1-inch meter, $70.64 for 1 1/2-inch meter, $110.78 for a 2-inch meter, $237.78 for a 3-inch meter, $425.15 for a 4-inch meter and $873.31 for a 6-inch meter. An additional monthly San Diego County Water Authority pass-through charge is $35.02 for a 5/8-inch or 3/4-inch meter, $58.37 for a 1-inch meter, $118.75 for a 1 1/2-inch meter, $186.79 for a 2-inch meter, $408.61 for a 3-inch meter, $735.50 for a 4-inch meter and $1,517.61 for a 6-inch meter.

A 5/8-inch meter has a maximum flow of 3,000 cubic feet per month or 0.83 acre-feet per year, a 3/4-inch meter has a maximum of 5,000 cubic feet per month or 1.38 acre-feet per year, the 1-inch meter maximum is 8,000 cubic feet per month or 2.20 acre-feet per year, the maximum for a 1 1/2-inch meter is 13,000 cubic feet per month or 3.58 acre-feet per year, a 2-inch meter equates to a maximum of 30,000 cubic feet per month or 8.26 acre-feet per year, the 3-inch meter maximum is 60,000 cubic feet per month or 16.53 acre-feet per year and the maximum flow for a 4-inch meter is 100,000 cubic feet per month or 27.55 acre-feet per year.

Rainbow’s wastewater system is not considered built out, and capacity fees include a buy-in component into the existing wastewater system, treatment capacity in the San Luis Rey Wastewater Treatment Plant and an expansion component for projects which will expand the wastewater system for additional flows.

The sewer capacity fee had been $17,090 per equivalent dwelling unit. The base was changed to $14,126.

“Our fees for wastewater went down,” Kennedy said.

A house with a living area between 1,251 and 2,000 square feet has an equivalent dwelling unit of 1.0. A house less than 1,250 square feet has an equivalent dwelling unit of 0.8 and a capacity fee of $11,301. A house between 2,001 and 3,000 square feet has a $16,951 capacity fee for 1.2 EDUs. A $21,189 capacity fee for 1.5 EDUs applies for homes between 2,001 and 4,500 square feet. A home between 4,501 and 6,000 square feet would be assessed a $28,252 capacity fee for 2.0 EDUs. The capacity fee for a home over 6,000 square feet will be determined on a case-by-case basis. The previous system based the capacity fee on an EDU of 0.4 for each bedroom.

An apartment or condominium unit had already been given an equivalent dwelling unit of 1.0. Each mobile home park space, office, service building or other accessory building had a capacity fee based on 0.8 EDUs, but mobile home parks now have an EDU of 1.0 for each unit. The EDU for a residential second unit was increased from 0.8 to 1.0. For a motel or hotel, the EDU remains 0.40 for each living unit without a kitchen and 0.80 for each living unit with a kitchen.

The changes to the wastewater ordinance also includes the removal of the unconnected sewer charge for customers who have a sewer permit but have not yet connected to Rainbow’s sewer system. The unconnected sewer charge had been $41.67 per month.

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