Water Authority–Cayman customers in Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac will be hit with a sizeable rate increase that took effect starting Thursday, according to regulations approved in Cabinet this week.
For Grand Cayman customers, the increase in the base water rate will be 9.26 per cent for both tiers of water users. In Cayman Brac, the base rate increase will be 6.68 per cent.
There was some good news in the authority’s announcement Thursday. Changes to the current billing system will eliminate a “base rate” charge of $16.04 now levied on all water bills. In exchange, charges for water use will start at “0” rather than exempting minor usages as has been done in the past.
This means that someone who pays a monthly connection charge of $21 and uses no Water Authority water during that month would now pay just $5-a-month meter rental fee if they maintain an authority connection.
“Water bills will now be based purely on usage,” said authority Deputy Director Tom van Zanten.
The new rate structure means lower water use residential customers (less than 12 cubic metres – about 3,200 gallons) will pay $4.38 per cubic metre, up from $4.01 per cubic metre. That translates into roughly $16.58 per 1,000 gallons used under the new rates.
For water usage above 12 cubic meters, the rate will also increase from $5.10 per cubic metre to $5.57 for cubic metre.
The Water Authority said commercial properties would see a “similar percentage” increase.
In addition, sewerage and septic rates will increase by 10 per cent. “All sewer and septage bills will now receive an energy adjustment charge similarly as on the water bills,” the Water Authority stated, adding that this new charge would “cover fluctuations” in the cost of electricity used to process sewage.
The regulations approved by Cabinet will also lead to automatic annual rate adjustments.
“For the purpose of dealing with inflation, the sewerage charges, septage charges and water charges shall be adjusted annually on 1 July of each year,” the Water Authority Regulations, 2012 state.
The adjustment uses a somewhat complicated formula, but it is essentially based on the consumer price index for 31 December the previous year.
Statutory fees will also increase under the changes to the rates.
“The rate adjustment is driven by the need to invest in our water and wastewater infrastructure to ensure their proper and adequate operation in years to come,” said Water Authority Director Gelia Frederick-van Genderen, adding that the last “comprehensive” rate adjustment for the authority happened in 1995.
Mrs. Frederick-van Genderen said that the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility the government signed with the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office last year has “increased difficulties” in the authority’s ability to borrow money.
“However, even with borrowing, a rate adjustment would still be necessary,” the director said. “Moving forward, the automatic rate adjustment will reflect the changing costs of doing business in the Cayman Islands.”
Water Authority–Cayman argues that rates remain much less costly than bottled drinking water.
The authority states its service charges are less than $0.02 per gallon, compared with $1.25 to $1.50 per gallon for bottles water purchased at retail prices.
Also, Mrs. Frederick-van Genderen said there are things people can do to control water costs. Those measures include: fixing leaks quickly, avoiding unnecessary toilet flushing, installing water-saver shower heads and limiting water used for gardening.