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Who Should Set Southern Nevada Water Rates?

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Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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Las Vegas CBS KXNT- The state legislature may intervene in setting the price for one of Nevada’s most precious resources. Not gold — water. Specifically, Southern Nevada water.

State senators from both parties have signed on to a bill that puts the Southern Nevada Water Authority at the mercy of the state Public Utilities Commission when it needs to raise rates. Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson says the bill arises from last summer’s sudden, steep rate increase that clobbered small businesses in clark county.

“Many in the Southern Nevada community did not believe there was nearly the public input necessary, there was not a lot of transparency,” Roberson told KXNT on Tuesday. “It seemed to be a rubber-stamped decision that happened very quickly.”

Senate Bill 232 would set SNWA apart from its counterparts around the state that are exmpt from PUC oversight, and set their own rates. Water rate increases would have an extra measure of oversight, with the final decision in the hands of a hearing officer appointed by the PUC.

Critics say it removes local control. SNWA’s Senior Deputy General Manager John Entsminger says the current rate setting process rests with elected officials — city councils and other municipal governing bodies — who are accountable to the customers.

“All 29 elected officials need to approve a rate increase under the current structure,” Entsminger said. “It’s all public and very transparent. There are a number of public hearings in the process.”

Other sources say it’s early in the legislative session, and amendments are already being crafted. Several observers told KNXT this bill could end up looking very different a couple of months from now.

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