Ignacio utility customers face higher water and wastewater rates, but some programs could help make their homes more efficient and their costs lower.
When Ignacio utility customers send their monthly check to the town of Ignacio, they are paying town fees and provider bulk rates. In October, the town’s utility provider, Southern Ute Utilities Division, raised its rates and prompted the town to change its fee structure. Some residents have raised concerns about the potential impact of the changes on people with fixed or low incomes.
“There is a continual conversation of how we can work with various customers that we know have a difficult time,” said Tuggy Dunton, town clerk and treasurer. “We will try to help as much as we can.”
Town staff regularly connects customers with three cost-saving energy programs, but the town does not know of water-related assistance programs. Staff are not actively researching additional program options. If residents are struggling, it is their responsibility to find those resources, Dunton said.
“If there is a program that (others) are aware of ... I would love to know about it to be able to research it,” she said.
Utility customers could save money by making their homes more efficient or by changing how much water, wastewater and natural gas they use.
“People don’t realize how much water is used if you have a leaking faucet or a toilet that doesn’t settle,” said Dunton, who regularly works with utility customers. “When that drips, you can double your water consumption.”
Usage matters when it comes to town fees. The fees, which support operational and administrative costs, tie more closely to utility usage than in prior years.
A more efficient home, with good insulation or better faucets, could also help with utility costs. Several programs operate in the Southwest that help with overall energy usage in the home.
CAREColorado’s Affordable Residential Energy program offers free energy efficiency services to income-qualifying community members.
The program, operated by the nonprofit Four Corners Office for Resources Efficiency, educates community members on their current energy use, shows them ways to improve energy efficiency and installs product upgrades in the house.
Depending on their need, participants could receive free upgrades such as improved insulation, EnergyStar refrigerators, storm windows or hot water heaters. CARE accepts a limited number of applicants, and applicants must meet certain requirements.
4CORE also administers Energy Smart Colorado, an energy efficiency program that is not income restricted and connects applicants to educational and financial resources.
Community members can also take part in the HomeH20 program, which provides rainwater harvesting resources and could help some residents save on water bills.
Energy Outreach ColoradoEnergy Outreach Colorado assists with home heating costs, heating system repair and replacement, and energy education. One requirement is that applicants must apply to LEAP before applying for EOC.
Energy Outreach Colorado is also one of the funding organizations for the CARE program.
LEAPDiscover Goodwill, in partnership with the Colorado Department of Human Services, administers the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program. The program provides financial assistance on heating bills for income-qualifying families.
The federally funded program doesn’t pay the entire heating bill, and applicants must continue paying their bill to qualify. It operates Nov. 1 through April 30, and applications are ongoing.