Stage 5 Surcharges to Apply to W.F. Residents, Not Businesses

- When Wichita Falls city councilors hear Stage 5 Drought Catastrophe recommendations next week they will include doubling the surcharges for residents who go over a designated amount of gallons per month.

Public Works officials say the city's billing system cannot set a monthly water usage rate for the thousands of businesses because the amount each uses varies by vast amounts while the average amount of water households use doesn't vary so widely.

Regardless, some residents are getting more and more steamed each time they hear about another surcharge hike.

As the City of Wichita Falls prepares to elevate to Stage 5 water restrictions one recommendation the Water Resources Commission is proposing is a higher surcharge on homeowners who use more than 10,000 gallons each month but the commission chairman says businesses won't face a surcharge.

"Unlike homeowners, you can pretty much define what they use water for, drinking, bathing, washing clothes.  Washing this and washing that.  We can't go to each individual business that uses water and determine what they're using that water for and say you can't use it for this function or you can't use it for that function," says Arnold Oliver, chairman of the Water Resources Commission.

Some residents say that's not fair.

"If we're cutting back and we're doing everything we can,  they need to also pitch in and be a part of the community themselves and that would be the businesses," says Wichita Falls resident, John Crane.

"For other corporations that have more money to spend and they can kind of get a break on it-- it's kind of a double standard," adds Christopher Lloyd,

City officials don't see it that way. They say there are more than 30,000 businesses in Wichita falls. While all use water, the amount each uses varies and the commission says there is also this fact.

"We're about out of options as to where we can cut discretionary water use and still let businesses attempt to stay," Oliver says.

Like residents, businesses have had rate hikes to pay for all the improvements in recent years. They just don't get the surcharges.

City leaders will hear the commission's Stage 5 recommendations during Tuesday's city council meeting. You can view the Stage 5 Drought Catastrophe recommendations by clicking on the link below, then click Agenda, followed by April 15, 2014.

The Water Drought Contingency Plan begins on Page 20.

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