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AUSTIN -- As the drought continues and Austin Water Utility's deficit increases, members of the water board want to create an additional fee for customers if the city goes into Stage 3 or 4 restrictions. The Joint Committee, made up of all city boards dealing with water, met Wednesday to talk about the Drought Rate fee.

The concept of drought rate fees is becoming increasingly popular. Austin Water officials say Dallas just created a similar fee.

It would kick in if Austin hit stage 3 water restrictions, which happens when the lake storage levels hit 600,000 acre-feet. Experts predict that could happen in July because the level is currently 732,000 acre-feet.

In Stage 3 people would have to use significantly less water. Austin Water estimates customers will use 5 billion gallons less during stage 3 and an additional 7 billion gallons less in stage 4. To make up for lost revenue, customers would pay an additional fee on their water bills.

The committee was presented several options Wednesday night.

One includes charging residential customers $0.74 per thousand gallons in stage 3 and $2.63 per thousand gallons in stage four.

Another option, similar to the Dallas model, would charge residential customers $4.82 for every thousand gallons they use above 11,000. That rate increases to $44.59 in stage 4.

A third option is a tiered fee with charges ranging from $3.20 to $25.20 in stage 3 depending how much water is used and $6.60 to $47.60 in stage 4.

The last option presented was a fixed fee of $4 a month for residential customers in stage 3 and $12 in stage 4.

The committee will choose one and present it to council at the end of May. Council will then decide whether to include the fee in next fiscal year's budget.

There are different rates for multi-family units and commercial customers. Click here to see those rates and read the full report.

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