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Brawley water conservation plan will start in October

March 05, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — As this city prepares to celebrate its new water treatment plant, work also is moving forward on a citywide water conservation program set to start in October.

The city is under orders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conserve water as a condition of federal grant funding awarded to the city for the rebuilding of its wastewater treatment plant.

The EPA determined before the city was awarded funding for the wastewater plant that Brawley is one of the highest water users in Southern California.

As a result, the EPA set the condition that before the city could receive grant funding it had to develop a plan for water conservation.

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That plan, set early last year, calls for the city to start a water-metering system in October.

City Manager Jerry Santillan said within three years all households and businesses will have meters.

He said there will be a base rate city residents and businesses pay for water as part of the water meter system. Any use above the amount set by the meters would lead to higher charges.

Santillan said the cost of placing meters throughout the city will be about $2.5 million, and city officials are in the process of seeking grant funding to cover that cost.

City officials have said they would place the entire city on a meter system as long as the city receives funding to cover the cost of doing so.

Council members agreed it was important that the city agree to a water conservation program. They said it was a necessary step to receive some $6.9 million in funding for the wastewater project.

They said without that funding the city could have been in a position of having to raise water rates to cover the wastewater plant costs.

Still, some on the council have voiced concern about the meters.

Brawley Mayor Wayne Johnson said he has concerns about the meters, because he said they could create a situation where people water their lawns less, affecting the city's appearance.

The meters could have another effect in light of a zero-interest loan the city is seeking to cover the cost of its new water treatment plant.

The city is covering the cost of the plant based on a loan that includes interest.

Johnson said if the city could transfer the cost of the plant to a zero-interest loan, it could save the city up to $20 million in interest payments over about 20 years.

Johnson said the city is paying about $1,000 a day to cover the interest payments on the city's water plant loan.

He said the savings caused by the zero-interest loan might result in reduced water rates. Johnson said there has been no formal discussion on taking such an action.

The city could receive that zero-interest loan as early as this month, he said.

Johnson added it is unclear how the meters would affect the city's ability to lower water rates.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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