BWS Seeks Community Input for Proposed Changes to Water Rates

HONOLULU, MARCH 28, 2018 – The Board of Water Supply (BWS) is seeking public input regarding proposed changes to its water rates, as presented to its Board of Directors yesterday. The changes are driven by the need to increase investments in Oahu’s water infrastructure, reduce water main breaks, encourage conservation, provide sufficient funding for disaster recovery, and more equitably distribute rates and charges among types of customers.

As a result, the proposed rate changes will vary by customer type.

  • Single family residential customers (stand-alone households and duplexes) will see the largest increase. As a group, these customers currently pay only 88% of the costs to serve them, leaving 12% to be subsidized by other rate-payer classes.
  • Multi-unit residential customers (triplexes up to high-rise complexes) will see smaller increases as rates are adjusted over time to eliminate their subsidy to single family customers.
  • The billing charge currently assessed to all customers at a flat rate is proposed to become a monthly customer charge that varies by meter size, to more fairly distribute costs so that customers with larger meters pay more. Most residences have smaller meters.
  • Customers with private fire protection systems will no longer pay for incidental water use, but instead will pay a nominal monthly fire meter standby charge.
  • A new affordability water-use tier will be added to cover “Essential Needs” for basic water uses such as drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene. The tiers are being adjusted to encourage conservation.

All of these changes are intended to more equitably recover BWS’s costs, to provide water service, from each type of customer – so everyone pays their fair share.

The proposed changes are based on 4 years of studies, intensive analysis, and public input, including BWS’s preparation of a Water Master Plan, a 30-year Infrastructure Investment Plan, and a Long Range Financial Plan. The rate proposal reflects input from a community advisory group with representation throughout Oahu, meetings with diverse island interests, as well as multiple customer surveys and focus groups.

Prior to adopting the proposed rates, BWS is reaching out again for broad public ideas and input. “We’ve been working on the planning and technical evaluations to revamp the BWS rate structure for a long time,” noted BWS Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest Lau. “We think we’ve done a very thoughtful and thorough job. All of our revenue comes from our customers, so we want to hear from them whether we’ve got this right.”

“We’ve heard loud and clear that reducing main breaks is important,” said BWS Board Chair Bryan Andaya. “While it won’t happen overnight, the revised rates and associated plans will put us solidly on that path.  At the same time, we’re taking this opportunity to give customers greater control of their water bills and be rewarded for their commitment to conservation.”

The draft water rate proposal includes schedules of monthly charges, consumption charges, fire meter standby charges, and fee subsidies to support affordable, homeless housing incentives, and fire sprinklers retrofit of existing high-rise residential buildings. The BWS also proposes to continue subsidized agricultural rates for qualified farmers.

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BWS is reaching out to the community through the neighborhood board system, community and civic organizations, as well as its community advisory group, and will hold four public hearings on the proposed changes:

  • Honolulu – Thursday, April 26
    Mission Memorial Auditorium
    550 South King Street
    Honolulu, HI 96813
    6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
  • Kapolei – Monday, May 14
    Kapolei Hale
    Ground Floor Conference Room
    1000 Uluohia Street
    Kapolei, HI 96707
    6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
  • Kaneohe – Tuesday, May 15
    Benjamin Parker Elementary
    School Cafeteria
    45-259 Waikalua Road
    Kaneohe, HI 96744
    6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
  • Mililani – Thursday, May 24
    Mililani Recreation Center #5
    95-1101 Ainamakua Drive
    Mililani Town, HI 96789
    6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

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Updated: 4/26/18