Olympia utilities committee approves discount water rate for urban agriculture


The Olympia Utilities Advisory Committee (UAC) has directed its staff to develop a discounted rate for irrigation water used for urban agriculture.

Water Resources Department director Eric Christensen brought the discounted irrigation water rate proposal for discussion at the UAC meeting on Thursday, May 5.

He said a councilmember asked the committee to include in the work plan an initiative which aims to provide water rate aid to urban agriculture.

“The Olympia’s comprehensive plan, goals and policies encourage local food production.  They want to ensure that everyone within Olympia … grow food that encourages more profitable gardening, farming, and … encourages ways to promote health,” Christensen said.

Olympia Municipal Code 18.02.180 defines urban agriculture as “the use of land for farming, dairying, pasturing and grazing, horticulture, floriculture, viticulture, apiaries, animal and poultry husbandry, and accessory activities, including, but not limited to, storage, harvesting, feeding or maintenance of equipment, and onsite sales of agricultural products, but excluding stockyards, slaughtering or commercial food processing.”

To be qualified for a discounted irrigation rate, Christensen said they proposed the following:

  • The site has a separate water meter for irrigation
  • The site is predominately over 50% (by land cover) used for agriculture or community gardens
  • The site produces food or agricultural products for commercial sales or donation to food banks

The discount would be 50% of the rate, but only for water piped for agricultural uses.

Christensen said there are seven agriculture sites that would be eligible for discount:

  • Olympia Community Gardens, located at 1405 13th SE, with $2,077.55 utility bill in 2021
  • Westminster Baptist Church gardens, located at 1925 Boulevard Rd. SE, with a $930.42 utility bill in 2021
  • Eastside Urban Farm and Garden, located at 2326 4th Ave. E, with a $1,326.42 utility bill in 2021
  • Kiwanis at 212 Maple Park Ave. SE
  • Kiwanis at 3839 11th Ave. NW
  • Woodard Co-housing at 1620 Woodard Ave. NW

Christensen is confident that if a discount is approved, there would be an increase of eligible urban agriculture in the list. “You can take note that any discount could be reevaluated on an annual basis.”

According to Christensen, the proposed irrigation rate discount would reduce the city Water Resources’ current revenues by approximately $4,500 per year.

“The utility has approximately 20,000 customers so each remaining customer will need to pay approximately an additional 21 cents each year to support the proposed irrigation rate discount for urban farming,” he wrote in a message to The JOLT.

The discount is “conceptual at this time,” he added. If approved by the city council, the discount would take effect in January 2023.


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