State raises price of reservoir water
Despite a 35-cents-per-thousand-gallon price hike, Hillsboro city council members approved a new contract with Kansas Water Office Tuesday.
The 40-year contract would expire in 2061. While the city could adjust the contract every 10 years and KWO could change it yearly with notification, it would be largely unchanged until the next generation.
Keeping the city’s current allotment of 300 million gallons in place for future population or economic growth was the main reason councilmen agreed to the higher rate.
“There are at least three of us sitting around this table thinking about the way the water was before it was connected to the reservoir,” mayor Lou Thurston said. “The water quality was poor, to say the least, and had a negative impact on development.”
KWO’s contract rate is determined by the costs of taking care of the volume of water as well as staff employment. Negotiation for dealing with the blue-green algae and its by-products are open for Hillsboro, although KWO does not have a department for quality of water.
“Water is complicated in Kansas, and there are a lot of jurisdictions that take different pieces of the puzzle when they handle the water,” city administrator Matt Stiles said. “But there’s no one who takes quality of water.”
Of the 300 million gallon allotment, Hillsboro must pay for the first 150 million gallons up front. It uses 130 million gallons annually.
Stiles estimated Hillsboro would hit 200 million gallons annually based on a 1% growth rate in 40 years. That does not include another industry being brought into Hillsboro and increasing water use.
“Do we really need the 300 million gallons? That’s a difficult situation, thinking what we’ll need 50 years from now,” Stiles said.
If other areas wanted to pull from the reservoir, they would negotiate their own allocations with KWO instead of pulling from Hillsboro’s contract.
Transporting and treating 1,000 gallons of water costs $1.95 now. KWO wants to increase the cost by 35 cents, which would be a 30 cent increase for Hillsboro consumers.
“We haven’t quite gotten all of that hammered out yet,” Stiles said. “That’s a rough pass at this point.”
City council members agreed that Hillsboro had no room to negotiate.
“I would have a hard time sitting here recommending that we refuse our allocation,” Thurston said. “I think that’s a real short-sighted move when we think about something from 40 years down the road that we’re committing our grandchildren to. I recommend we move conservatively and not make any risky decisions.”