Albuquerque Water Rates

Sean Olson this morning discusses a proposal to raise (sort of) our water rates (warning: complex ad wall if you click):

For the households that keep the taps running 24-7, now might be the time to start tucking more money under the mattress.

The city-county water authority is proposing a new rate structure that would crack down on Albuquerque’s highest water users to the tune of up to several thousand dollars a year, while providing a slight discount to the water conscious.

Water authority officials said Monday that the rate plan would provide an incentive to use less, as opposed to just penalizing customers with high usage.


  1. John,

    Do you have any per capita usage data for Albuquerque? I don’t mean to brag (in fact I shouldn’t because our water use is nothing spectacular), but currently in Tucson, its about 165 gallons/capita/day (derived from total water supplied/number of persons served), which has been declining fairly steadily from about 180 gpcd 25 years ago. We have an inclining block rate structure, where residential customers currently pay $1.23 per hundred cubic feet (ccf) up to 15 ccf per month, then $5.13 per ccf for the next 15 ccf used, $7.25/ccf for the next 15, and finally $9.90/ccf for any use above 45 ccf/month. Those rates are going to go up an average of 10-12% before the end of the year because the customers have not been using enough water this year to cover the budget, so use is expected to fall further, and I’d say water here is still pretty cheap. I’ll wager dollars to donuts that per capita use is higher in Abq based on the structure of their rates shown in the article. I think there is plenty of evidence out there that water use at higher levels is pretty price sensitive (higher elasticity), but the price signal still needs to be clear.

  2. Chris –

    We’re in the low 160s (gallons per day). We’ve got a legal requirement to get that down another 10 gallons per person per day. I was at a meeting last night where one of the speakers quoted figures of 120 gpd for El Paso and 105 for Santa Fe. But when I did a story for the newspaper a few years back and really tried to delve deeply into the numbers question, I found that it was hard to compare cities because of differing methodologies for calculating the number. My hunch is that you guys are still a lot better than we are, and the seeming equivalence is a result of Albuquerque using a more generous methodology. I’ll try to figure out more.

  3. Yes, it gets calculated a lot of ways. the number I quoted is a simplified approach to it. I think if you just look at residential uses we are in the 100-110 gpcd range. Another useful number to look at is the percent of use that goes to outdoor watering – that is kind of the approach taken in your rate structure, because that is typically amounts above base usage rates – very little yard watering in winter, lots in summer. But that is the most elastic segment of use that can be most impacted by price strategies. I’ve generally contended that that water should be priced so that alternative supplies (rainwater harvesting, gray water) become competitive and hence more attractive.

  4. We used, per capita, about 161 gallons in 2008. Goals this year are to meet 159, but the city is already behind. But those numbers will seesaw over the next few months. We use the same criteria in Albuquerque, total water supplied versus people supplied to. Other cities leave out some industrial or commercial uses to get their numbers lower. Our overall goal is to get down to about 150, but we are only required to get to 155 by the state engineer (or he takes our surface water away). Hope this helps.

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