November 20, 2018
By Cara Spoto
Total water and sewer bills could go up by 12 percent
Waukesha — Water and sewer customers in the city of Waukesha could see their quarterly bills increase by roughly 12 percent next year as a result of sewer and “return flow” rate increases slated to take effect on Jan. 1.
Aldermen will be asked to approve the new rates, which are being put forward to pay for costs related to various sewer upgrades and the Lake Michigan diversion project, when they meet at 6:30 p.m. this evening at City Hall, 201 Delafield St.
If the Common Council approves the rate hikes, residents should first see the impact of the increases on their March water and sewer bills.
Residential sewer rates are currently $6.62 per 1,000 gallons of use, with the average homeowner paying about $94 a quarter for the usage, according to utility data.
If the sewer rate increase is approved, homeowners would see that rate increase to $7.25 per 1,000 gallons of use on Jan. 1, bringing the sewer portion of their quarterly bill to about $103.
A presentation made to the Board of Public works earlier this month noted a number of factors prompting the proposed increase, including projected operating increases of 2.13 percent, and plans to issue $5.4 million in debt to pay for system projects in 2019.
Return flow rate
New to bills this year, the residential “return flow” rate is currently 62 cents per 1,000 gallons of use, with the average homeowner paying about $7.50 per quarter for that usage.
If the “return flow” rate increase is approved, homeowners would see that rate increase to $1.85 per 1,000 gallons of use on Jan. 1, bringing that portion of their quarterly bill to about $22.
The “return flow” rate was added to water and sewer bills in June to help finance preliminary costs associated with a $125.6 million pipeline that will return treated water back to Lake Michigan as part of the diversion project.
Although construction on the 15-mile pipeline is not expected to begin until 2020, utility officials were in the early stages of designing and permitting the return-flow infrastructure when the new charge was approved, and had just taken out $16.6 million in anticipation notes to fund the improvements.
Utility staffers have said their intent is to implement rate increases in a series of gradual steps so users are not met with a sizable wallop all at once. Based on current projections, average quarterly bills for water, sewer and return flow charges, are expected to total $324 by the year 2023.
“The Waukesha Water Commission wanted staff to review rates overall (water, sewer and return flow) with the goal of limiting increases to a maximum of 15 percent overall in any one year, therefore, we have been working with the sewer utility to review their rates to obtain that goal,” Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak added Monday.