Despite increased usage, Cedar City residents paid the same water rates during pandemic year

Cedar City project engineer Don Davis presents the annual water report to the Cedar City Council, Cedar City, Utah. April 28, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — The Cedar City Council heard its yearly water report from staff on Wednesday night, leading to more discussion about the ongoing issue of how much people should pay for water.

Cedar City residents pay some of the lowest water rates in the state, and the pandemic year of 2020 didn’t change that despite increased water usage.

“We used a lot of water this last year,” project engineer Don Davis said. “We have used more water per person.”

According to the 75-page report, 158 more connections were hooked up to the city water system in 2020 for a total of 9,562 connections.

Per capita, Cedar City citizens used 251 gallons of culinary and irrigation water per day. That represents a significant increase over 2019, when citizens used 220 gallons per day.

At the same time, water rates remained unchanged.

(L-R): Cedar City Manager Paul Bittmenn and Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards talk to council during the presentation of the water report, Cedar City, Utah, April 28, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, Cedar City News

According to the report, each water user pays a fixed charge of $17 per month. Then, monthly culinary and irrigation water costs are added according to a sliding scale based on usage per 1,000 gallons.

“The water rate schedule in the report has not changed in the last two years,” Davis said. 

Discussion ensued among council members.

“Our water rates have to be among the best in the world, is my guess,” council member Craig Isom said, adding that a water rate update is something the council would like to explore.

Good prices for water are enjoyed by Cedar City businesses as well.

“We definitely have by far some of the cheapest commercial water rates in the state. We have some of the cheapest residential water rates,” said council member Tyler Melling. “You look at other desert communities throughout the west, and we’re pretty comparable when it comes to indoor household use.”

The problem comes, Melling added, once you get past that. Other desert communities in states around Utah make consumers pay the true value to the taxpayer for what the water is worth.

For example, if a resident turns on a sprinkler to water the lawn and walks away overnight, that resident gets charged more. 

“Right now, we’re not quite there, by several factors,” Melling said. 

Despite the per capita increase in usage last year in Cedar City, residents of Iron County overall remained among the lowest water users in the state.

“In the recent state report, we were by far one of the lowest water users,” Melling said. “Countywide, we came in third or fourth lowest.”

In a phone interview with Cedar City News, Melling said that the council directed staff to begin looking at the water rate schedule after the council retreat last February.

That’s a big job that will first tackle making adjustments to the water acquisition fees for new development — an issue Melling said the council hopes to address in the weeks to come.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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