ALLIED COMMUNITIES waukesha

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The Great Water Alliance will be part of the Waukesha community for years to come. Bookmark this page to see the local news and developments, and to learn about upcoming events. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, to get latest info sent directly to your inbox.

Investing in the future
of Waukesha Water

Safe, reliable drinking water is essential to the health of our families and to our local economy. That is why, in less than two years, construction will begin on the infrastructure to provide Waukesha with a new water supply. Our switch to Lake Michigan water by 2023 will assure that city residents and businesses have a water supply that is safe, reliable and sustainable for the long term. That helps ensure that our city is a desirable place to live now and for generations to come.

More than 15 years of study convinced city leaders that we must switch to Lake Michigan water. All ten Great Lakes states and provinces agreed that using and returning lake water is our only reasonable option. Our current primary groundwater source is severely depleted and has excessive amounts of natural contaminants. Increasing treatment for radium contamination would only be an expensive, short-term Band-Aid. There is no “do nothing” alternative and no cheaper long-term alternative than Lake Michigan water.

Like our city leaders, most residents understand that this investment in our infrastructure is needed. But residents also have questions about what the impacts of that investment will be on our water bills and how our bills will compare with those in other communities.

The bottom line: rates will increase, but for good reason and for immeasurable benefit.

Your current water bill pays the costs to
build and run the infrastructure

Water bills typically contain two parts: water supply charges and wastewater charges. The majority of the costs associated with “water supply” are for the pipes, treatment facilities, testing and people involved with obtaining, treating it and delivering high-quality drinking water. It also covers the costs of constructing, maintaining and replacing pipes and other infrastructure.

Starting June 1, 2018, Waukesha added a return flow charge to begin to help pay for the costs of building and operating a return flow system, including a 23-mile pipeline, that will recycle water back to the Great Lakes Basin. This is a requirement of our approval to switch to a Lake Michigan water supply.

The other half of your water bill is the wastewater charge. That pays for collecting and treating the wastewater you generate and then returning it to the environment as clean water.

Current Water Charges (Avg)

Current Water Charges (Avg)
Current Water Charges (Avg)

figure 1

In order to further clarify exactly what Waukesha citizens are paying for, we’ve differentiated between your total water & return flow charges (1) and your wastewater charges (2). Your water bill (figure 2) will still be paid in a singular payment combining both charges.

  1. Your total water & return flow charges come from the Waukesha Water Utility.
  2. Your wastewater utility charges come from the Clean Water Plant and the Department of Public Works.
Your total water & return flow charges come from the Waukesha Water Utility.
Your wastewater utility charges come from the Clean Water Plant and the Department of Public Works.

figure 2

Download an example of a water bill (PDF)

Waukesha’s water bills are currently
lower than regional averages

We compared the total Waukesha bill to the water and sewer charges in other communities that have comprehensive information about their rates online. We assumed 4,000 gallons per month usage, which is the average for Waukesha residences.

Residential Water/Sewer Charges for
Milwaukee & Waukesha Communities (Quarterly)

figure 2

Future rates to invest in reliable water

In order to estimate future rates for Waukesha, we evaluated the ongoing costs to maintain and operate the water and wastewater systems, along with the costs of investing in the new water supply and return flow. We estimated through 2027, when bond payments will be underway. Bond payments are essentially payments for the loan to fund the improvements – much like a mortgage payment on a home.

Projected Total Water Bill in 2027:

$466

per quarter for the average residential customer

Estimates of Future Quarterly Total Water Bills
(5% and 8% Annual Growth)

Estimates of Future Quarterly Total Water Bills (5% and 8% Annual Growth)
Estimates of Future Quarterly Total Water Bills (5% and 8% Annual Growth)

figure 3

The fact is, Waukesha’s rates will be higher when the project is complete, but should be comparable to many of our neighbors and even lower than some others. It is also a fact that all communities will face ongoing investment needs, just like Waukesha. Most importantly, these investments will result in a reliable and sustainable water supply which will make our city an even better place to live.

You should also know that Lake Michigan water will be nearly 70% softer than our current water supply. That will allow Waukesha residents to save money on salt used in water softeners. It will also help protect our waterways, because the chlorides in salt are toxic to the fish and animals that live in our rivers.

City and utility officials are doing all they can to help lessen the possible Waukesha increases. For instance, the city is working with the federal government, including our Congressmen and Senators, for financial help that could reduce the projected impacts on ratepayers. Our local state legislators and Governor Walker have already helped with improvements in infrastructure loan terms. And our recent agreement to purchase water from the City of Milwaukee will save the average residential ratepayer about $224 per year, compared to other suppliers.

It is important to remember that water or wastewater projects are not funded with property tax dollars. It is the rates paid by users that pay the costs.

FAQs

A: Two reasons: The ongoing costs of operating and maintaining our infrastructure for both water supply and sewer services, and the costs of our switch to a new water supply.

Water and sewer rates are increasing across the country. Typical increases average 5% to 8% per year, due to the costs of operating the systems, maintaining pipes and treatment facilities, replacing water mains and sewer pipes, upgrading treatment plants, and more.

In addition, Waukesha is undertaking a large capital project to switch to a Lake Michigan water supply by 2023, to ensure that our community has reliable and safe drinking water for the long term. The new water supply is expected to cost the average residential customer about $50 per month by 2027.

A: Our current water supply is unreliable for the long-term needs of our community.

Our current primary groundwater source is severely depleted. It also has excessive amounts of natural contaminants, including radium, and we face a 2023 deadline to provide water that fully complies with federal drinking water standards. We must address both these issues. Doing nothing is not an option.

More than 15 years of study convinced city leaders that we must switch to a Lake Michigan water. All ten Great Lakes states and provinces agreed with our conclusion that using and returning lake water is the only reasonable option.

There is no cheaper alternative. Increasing treatment for radium contamination, for example, would only be an expensive, short-term Band-Aid.

Our switch to Lake Michigan water by 2023 will ensure that city residents and businesses have a water supply that is safe, reliable and sustainable for the long term, helping ensure that our city is a desirable place to live now and for generations to come.

A: We will switch to Lake Michigan water by 2023.

Planning and permitting is currently underway and construction will begin in 2020.

A: Water bills cover the costs of supplying drinking water and then treating the wastewater.

The water supply part of your bill pays for the infrastructure, testing and people needed to obtain water, to treat it and to deliver high-quality water to your home. It covers the costs of constructing, maintaining and replacing the necessary pipes and treatment facilities. For the average residential customer in Waukesha, the water supply charge is about $86 per quarter.

Starting June 1, 2018, Waukesha has added a return flow charge to begin to pay the costs of building and operating a return flow system. That includes the required 23-mile pipeline that will recycle Lake Michigan water back to the Great Lakes Basin. The current average return flow charge is $7 per quarter.

The other half of your water bill is the wastewater charge. That pays for collecting and treating the wastewater you generate and then returning it to the environment as clean water. The current average wastewater charge is $94 per quarter.

The current total water bill for Waukesha residential customers in 2018 adds up to about $188 per quarter (totals affected by rounding):
Average water supply charge $86
Average return flow charge 7
Average wastewater charge 94
Current average residential total $188

A: Waukesha’s current water bills are currently lower than area averages.

We compared the total Waukesha bill to the water and sewer charges in other communities that have comprehensive information about their rates online. We assumed 4,000 gallons per month usage, which is the average for Waukesha residences.

Total charges in 2018 range from about $151 per quarter in Sussex to $330 per quarter in Fox Point. The total charges are less in the City of Waukesha than the averages in Waukesha County ($195) and Milwaukee County ($241), as figure 2 above shows.

A: No. A reliable water supply makes Waukesha a better place to live.

Homeowners, renters and business owners all want to know that they can count on dependable, clean water. The cost of a new water supply will be about $50 per month by 2027. Any differences in water rates between communities will be too small to affect property values.

A: Water rates may increase about 148% over nine years to cover ongoing costs and the new water supply.

Waukesha has estimated the ongoing costs to maintain and operate our water and wastewater systems. We also examined the costs of investing in the new water supply, including the required return flow. We estimated costs through 2027, when bond payments will be underway. The bond payments are essentially payments for the loan to fund the improvements – much like a mortgage payment on a home.

We estimate the total water bill (water supply, return flow and wastewater charges) will average about $466 per quarter for the average residential customer in 2027. That is about a 148% increase over nine years. It covers the new water supply, plus the ongoing costs of operating and maintaining the infrastructure to supply drinking water and collect and treat wastewater.

The water supply side of the bill (including return flow) will approximately triple by 2027 and the sewer side will approximately double.

A: The total cost of the project to provide a long-term, safe drinking water supply is estimated at $285 million.

It is estimated that the new water supply will cost the average residential customer about $50 per month by 2027.

A: Waukesha’s rates are going up, but should continue to be comparable to many of our neighbors and even lower than some others in the future.

Like Waukesha, other communities will also face ongoing investment needs and will be raising water rates.

We have estimated what rates may look like in other communities. Increases in other communities are estimated in a range of 5% to 8% per year, which is typical among utilities nationally. The projections for average bills are compared in figure 3 above.

A: City and utility officials are doing all they can to reduce the financial impacts.

For example, the city is working with the federal government, including our Congressional Representatives and Senators, for financial help that could reduce the impacts on ratepayers. Our local state legislators and Governor Walker have already helped with improvements in infrastructure loan terms. And our recent agreement to purchase water from the City of Milwaukee will save the average residential ratepayer about $224 per year, compared to other potential suppliers.

It is important to remember that water or wastewater projects are not funded with property tax dollars. It is the rates paid by users that pay the costs.

A: Yes, conservation rebates and information on saving water are on our utility site.

Waukesha is a leader in water conservation efforts. You can find information on our rebate programs for rain barrels, as well as water-saving toilets and showerheads, at our utility website, www.Waukesha-Water.com. The site also has tips on how to conserve water, facts about when sprinkling is allowed in Waukesha and information about our education programs. Businesses can also find information on conservation incentives at the site. Or call us at 262.521.5272.

A: The Great Water Alliance website is a great way to stay informed.

Follow us
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Call Waukesha Water Utility
262.521.5272

And you can learn more about utility issues and water conservation – including rebates for rain barrels and water-saving toilets and showerheads – at www.Waukesha-Water.com.

UPCOMING EVENTS

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Myth vs. Fact

The subject of water resource management is often emotionally charged, and the passions it raises can lead to a blurring of the line between myth and fact. We’d like to address some of the common misperceptions that have arisen since Lake Michigan was identified as the only reasonable long term water supply for Waukesha.

GET THE FACTS »

Frequently Answered Questions

Here’s the place to start…
in case you’re wondering.

FAQ »