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Granite Shoals water rates to rise as usage restrictions drop

Granite Shoals water tower

The Granite Shoals water tower is full thanks to repairs to the city’s water system following recent pump failures. The city lowered its drought restrictions from Stage 3 to Stage 2, but persistent drought conditions could impact residential water rates. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Granite Shoals residents are facing increased water rates for three different reasons. 

First, the city has fixed its water pump problems and dropped from Stage 3 water restrictions to Stage 2, both of which usually trigger automatic rate increases. The City Council opted not to implement those rates because the problem was caused by equipment failure. Now, the city’s Stage 2 increase will go into effect. 

Second, the Lower Colorado River Authority is expected to soon implement Stage 2 restrictions, which are mandatory system-wide, including Marble Falls and other firm water customers. The last time mandatory Stage 2 restrictions went into effect, rates in Granite Shoals increased by 50 cents per user. 

And finally, the city is renegotiating its 40-year-old contract with the LCRA, which could result in reserve water fees of up to $31,000. That cost will have to be passed on to water customers. 

The council voted at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 8, to drop its Stage 3 restrictions to the more lenient Stage 2 restrictions.

The LCRA’s Stage 2 restrictions are triggered by its Water Management Plan and the levels of lakes Buchanan and Travis, the authority’s two reservoirs. When the combined storage of Buchanan and Travis reaches 45 percent, it triggers Stage 2 restrictions. The combined storage is currently at 47 percent, but the lakes are dropping about 1 acre-foot a week.  

Since Granite Shoals does not use any water from Lake Travis, City Manager Peggy Smith said that combined calculation should not apply to the city.

“I would like for us to get away from using the storage of Lake Travis because (the LCRA) is not sending that water back upstream to us,” she said.

Meanwhile, Granite Shoals residents who use city water will have the following rates added to their water bill because of the city’s Stage 2 restrictions, which are now in effect. Charges are per 1,000 gallons of water used above 2,000 gallons per billing cycle: 

  • 2,001 to 5,000 gallons — $2.75 
  • 5,001 to 8,000 gallons: $3.49 
  • 8,001 to 10,000 gallons: $4.15 
  • 10,001 to 12,000 gallons: $4.57 
  • 12,001 to 16,000 gallons: $5.23 
  • 16,001or more gallons: $6.37 

Stage 2 restrictions include outdoor watering schedules, which can be found on the city’s website, and elimination of non-essential water use such as filling swimming pools. All Stage 1 restrictions also apply. 

Part of complying with the Granite Shoals’ drought stage requires the city audit and assess leaks. A new municipal water system has helped the utilities department more easily identify leaks. Utilities Superintendent Joshua Hisey told the council on Tuesday that he had confirmed at least 199 leaks out of the 2,700 residences in the city. 

The leaks can be mostly attributed to the homes of non-permanent residents, according to Hisey, who said the owners likely don’t know about the leaks because they aren’t there to monitor them.

Residents can digitally monitor their water usage down to the gallon with the new Eye on Water utility system that was completed in May. Residents can download the Eye on Water application or go online to register. 

According to Hisey, only 68 of the city’s 2,700 residences have signed up for the Eye on Water service since it came online.

dakota@thepicayune.com