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City enacts new water rates for businesses and homeowner associations

Starting next year, some Woodbury businesses and residents will see a small water irrigation fee hike.

At its July 27 meeting, the Woodbury City Council approved a 21-cent increase per 1,000 gallons used for several users, including apartments, commercial and industrial users, as well as residents with metered irrigation. The increase only affects residents living under homeowner associations with metered irrigation systems.

City officials have become increasingly sensitive about water preservation after a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources report predicted that communities pumping from the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer may need to another water source within 20 years if current water usage continues.

The aquifer supplies water to much of the Twin Cities' east metro, including Woodbury.

In light of concerns about overstraining its water supply, the city of Woodbury is aiming to keep water usage flat by 2030. The city pumps about 3 billion gallons of water a year and lawn irrigation accounts for about one-third the usage.

With anticipated savings of about $55,000 from the new rate increase increase, the city plans to help fund a water conservation program for updating wasteful irrigation systems.

The city would match up to 25 percent of irrigation upgrades for customers paying increased rates. Upgrades includes more efficient irrigation systems, pressure-reducing valve or new sprinkler heads.

The fee increase is the first of five projected increases for metered irrigation water, which could reach $3.18 per 1,000 gallons by 2021.

"They're paying a higher rate, but ultimately, they won't pay any more," Woodbury utilities superintendent Jim Westerman said. "Depending on the level of success, they may even see savings."

Westerman added that improvements to existing irrigation systems might offset the higher utility costs, and in some cases, bring overall water spending down for some despite the higher rate.

Water saving programs may also reduce the need to build additional wells in the future, Westerman said.

"What the city gets out of it is less water pumped ... and slowing down the progress of a 20th well," Westerman said.

The city has 18 wells with another being constructed. Adding another well would cost about $2 million, "so there's taxpayer benefit there, as well," Westerman said.

Five or 10 years ago, he said, the city estimated it would need about 28 wells, but with more efficient water systems and appliances, "it's maybe in the neighborhood of 23 or 24 wells."

The new irrigation rates will take effect Jan. 1.