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 2020, 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 Canadian 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 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.

Current Water Charges (Avg)

Current Water Charges

figure 1

In order to further clarify exactly what Waukesha citizens are paying for, we’ve differentiated between your total water & return flow charges and your wastewater charges. Your water bill 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.
Water Bill - top
Water Bill - bottom
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)

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

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Future rates to invest in reliable water

Providing and returning Lake Michigan water is expected to add about $50 per month for the average Waukesha household. But, in order to estimate future rates for Waukesha, we also evaluated the ongoing costs to maintain and operate the water and wastewater systems. We estimated through 2027, when bond payments for the new water supply will be underway. Bond payments are essentially payments for the loan to fund the improvements, much like a mortgage payment on a home.




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

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

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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 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 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 then-Governor Walker 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: users pay the costs.

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Great Water Alliance welcomes your thoughts and opinions as we work towards improved water quality in the City of Waukesha, the Root River, and the Lake Michigan Basin.

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