Your 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 the water supply are for the pipes, treatment facilities, testing, and people involved with obtaining, treating, 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 restore 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 treated, clean water.
Rates for the wastewater and return flow portions of your bill will be increasing on January 1, 2021. Water supply rates will also increase sometime early in 2021, for the first time since December 1, 2017, once approved by state regulators. Estimates for those rates are provided in the table below.
|Typical Water Charges for Residential Customers|
Rates for a typical residential family will increase to about $269 on quarterly bills. However, we expect to switch to monthly bills for residential customers early in 2021, so the average monthly bill will be about $90. Most people prefer monthly bills, which also would give you more timely information about your own water use.
In order to further clarify exactly what Waukesha citizens are paying for, we’ve differentiated between your total water and return flow charges and your wastewater charges. Your water bill will still be paid in a singular payment combining both charges.
- Your total water and return flow charges pay for the maintenance and replacement of existing water infrastructure and the construction of the Great Lakes Water project.
- Your wastewater utility charges pay for the operations, maintenance and replacement of existing wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure.
The fact is, Waukesha’s rates will be higher when the project is complete, but 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 chlorides in salt are toxic to the fish and animals that live in our rivers.
City and Waukesha Water Utility officials are doing all they can to help lessen possible increases. For instance, the City of Waukesha worked with the Federal Government, including our Congressmen and Senators, to receive low cost financing that will reduce interest costs by about $1 million per year. Our local state legislators also helped with improvements in terms for state infrastructure loans. Additionally, our agreement to purchase water from the City of Milwaukee has been estimated to 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; users pay the costs.