Yelm water system plan to update infrastructure almost complete


Yelm’s water system plan to update its infrastructure and account for additional water rights is almost complete.

Yelm’s Public Works Director Cody Colt updated the City Council on the water system plan during a study session meeting on May 7, stating “we’re drawing near the end.”

The water system plan was authorized early last year when additional water rights were granted, Colt said. He noted that the plan itself could take multiple years to do because of all the different variables that go into it, but the end of the preliminary stages is close.

“We actually submitted the water system plan for initial review to the department of Health and Ecology,” Colt said. “This is the [part of the] capital improvement plan (CIP), and this is just the water side.”

He added that the water system study included a 20-year plan. This came with good news and bad, Colt stated.

“The good news is we lowered water rates in 2021, as you remember. We haven’t changed those rates in three years. While a lot of systems are struggling now with inflation and trying to keep up with things, our growth has kept us afloat,” Colt said. “Our growth will continue to keep us afloat until 2026 or 2027, and I believe if we grow at the rate we’re going, our growth will continue to keep us afloat. That means we shouldn’t have to change water rates in four years.”

Colt said that water development charges might need to be adjusted because of new construction coming in and making payments into the system, but current customers won’t have to see a rate increase.

The bad news, Colt said, is that the City will have to spend a lot of money to make any upgrades. He said the City does not have much flexibility to decrease water rates further, and they will “have to stay where they’re at.”

“We won’t have the ability, probably, to lower water rates,” Colt said. “There may be options to lower other rates but not water because of these capital permits we have to do.”

In 2026, Yelm will spend $4 million for another water tank as the city continues to grow. Colt said that Yelm will need the second water tank but won’t need another reservoir at any point in the near future.

“As soon as this tank is done, we’re going to need one more to fully utilize our water rights,” Colt said. “The idea is to build it in 2026. The reason it’s slightly cheaper is because the plans we have are good. It can be a very similar tank.”