Editorial: Keep Bend water rates simple and fair

Before the Bend City Council gets too far into revising the city’s water rate structure, we hope the community and councilors remember just how the effort drowned last time.

The city of Bend looked at changing its water rates for homeowners back in 2008. It wanted to soak the water hogs.

It planned an elaborate system of conservation rates — water charges with different tiers.

The city’s plan was to charge the same rate for the first 600 cubic feet of water. Then up to 1,500 cubic feet, it might charge $1.85. Rates would go to about $2.58 up to 3,000 cubic feet. And above that, rates might be $3 per cubic foot.

But as the city eventually admitted, it had no way of knowing how efficiently people were using water. A big family might try hard to conserve and still use much more water than a wasteful couple, but get stuck in a higher tier.

The city scrapped that tiered plan.

When the council discussed water rates on Wednesday, the conservation rate concept came up again. It was a relief to hear Mayor Jim Clinton suggest that the city consider setting a rate structure more similar to what it has now.

That promotes conservation. Use more and you pay more.

The city wants to ensure it has a fair and equitable rate structure. It also has to ensure it can pay for infrastructure improvements. The city does not need a complicated rate structure to accomplish that.

If you would like to learn more about the city’s new plans or have a comment, you can email Gillian Ockner at gockner@bendoregon.gov.