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Bozeman water, sewer rates to rise as technology aims to help conserve resources

Water comes at a cost
Posted: 8:00 AM, Aug 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-09 16:10:38-04
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Starting next month, Bozeman homeowners who live in the city are going to see a change in their water bills.
If you live in the city limits, you probably got a notice in your mailbox recently.
According to the notice, the city commission will listen to the public about these proposed rate changes for water and sewer usage costs in about two weeks.
We all use it everyday, whether it’s in the shower, to drink and to water your garden.
“Water use in July and August for single family homes can jump up to five times what it is in the winter months,” says Jessica Ahlstrom, a water conservation specialist for the City of Bozeman.
But water comes at a cost, a reminder shown in bills and notices.
“Everyone received notice that we’re having this hearing and this is where we are setting the rates where the commission adopts the rates,” says Kristin Donald, City of Bozeman financial director.
Donald says depending on how much water you use, you could see an eight-cent uptick on your bill.
“This is for our drought reserve so, in times of drought, the city is building reserve to make up for the lack of water use that will occur,” Donald says.
City officials say that August is the month that residents historically use the most water and that also includes the city government.
So, to combat that, not just the water rates are going up but across the board, sewer rates are also going up.
For multi-family homes, the city proposes a 2-percent increase in water rates.
Others like commercial usage and Montana State University will will see a small percentage increase, too.
Commercial will see an 8-percent increase while MSU will see a 4-percent increase.
City government will see a sewer rate hike of 20 percent, something single families won’t see at all.
“Residential is not seeing any change in their sewer rates,” Donald says.
To make it all easier, Ahlstrom says there will be a new tool to help keep track of how much H2O you use, a free water use portal called “dropcountr.”
“It displays water use in the tiers that your water use falls into so the City of Bozeman’s rate structure was just revised and now has four tier water rate tiers,” Ahlstrom says.
From one to four, the new quad of tiers measures how much water you use from least excessive to most.
“If you are a conservative water user, you’re bill will actually go down,” Donald says.
The public will get one more chance to hear all about the proposed new rates at a final public hearing at 6 pm on Monday, August 19 at City Hall.