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Spokane's Water Rates

Release Date: 12/31/2006 12:00:00 AM

Contact: Marlene Feist, 625-6740

Spokane’s Water Rates

By Erin Casci, Spokane Water Quality

It seems like a water bill always brings to mind a series of questions. How did they get that amount? Am I paying too much? Could I be paying less? How can it possibly take so much water to keep the lawn green? How much of this bill comes from my 15 year old daughter’s daily 45 minute showers? and so on and so forth. In response to these common, and not so common, questions, the next few paragraphs will explain how your bill is totaled, how the water rates are figured, and how the City of Spokane compares to other communities locally and nationally. As for your teenage daughter, sorry, you’re on your own.

First let’s talk about how you are billed. The City of Spokane charges a basic monthly service fee on all residential meters of $7.74. This fee pays for the general maintenance and repairs on the whole distribution system. Additionally there is a water rate that bills you according to how much water is used measured in units of 100 cubic feet (1 unit = 100 cubic feet = 748 gallons). This rate grows as water consumption increases. Currently, if you use 0 to 6 units per month the rate is $0.23 per unit, for 6-10 units per month the rate is $0.49 per unit, and over 10 units is $0.66 per unit. Finally, there is a water rate stabilization fee. This fee’s purpose is to replace old worn out water infrastructure without the need to borrow money and pay interest charges. This reduces the ultimate costs to water customers. To date the fee has been used to replace several miles of large water transmission mains which were about 100 years old. Your bill is the sum of these three charges; number of units used times the water rate + the service fee + the water rate stabilization fee. A typical household uses 10 units or less a month in the wintertime. If you used 10 units (7480 gallons) of water last month your bill would equal,

(10 units × $0.49 per unit) + $7.74 (service fee) + $3.50 (water rate stabilization fee) = $16.14

If you live inside the City of Spokane, $1.00 at the base unit rate for water consumption will buy roughly 3,000 gallons of water. At the higher outside city rate, this same dollar amount pays for close to 1,500 gallons. These external customer rates are higher to compensate expense of providing service to outlying areas. Click here to see a complete chart of rates. And that’s your water bill in a nutshell. But this number alone doesn’t show how the City of Spokane keeps your water rates competitive with other utilities in the Inland Northwest. There are several water providers near the City of Spokane. Each provider sets their own rates and fees shown in the following graphs.

As you can see the City of Spokane’s rates are comparable to other water providers in the area. But the City of Spokane’s water rates not only compete with other local utilities, it is one of the most inexpensive utilities in the nation. Rates and fees from various cities in the nation are graphed below. Seattle, Portland, and Denver were analyzed because they are large cities in the West. Lincoln, Syracuse, and Walnut Creek are included because their populations are similar to Spokane’s.

Spokane’s water rates are low for two main reasons. First, because we are able to use the geographic features of the area to our benefit. The Spokane Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer is a plentiful source of high quality water. Consequently, only minimal treatment with chlorine is needed, reducing the cost of water production. We also maintain and operate our own hydroelectric dam that powers our water pumps several months of the year saving hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. The money saved by generating our own power translates into about a 10% savings on your water bill every month.

The second reason our water rates are low is because The Spokane Water Department works hard to keep it that way. Because our leak detection, meter, and repair crews are vigilant, we maintain a “lost water” rate of about 6%, one of the lowest in the nation. Lost water is usually caused by main breaks and leaks but also includes any other water that can’t be accounted for. The meter shop is vigilant about accurate meters because accurate meters ensure that water is accounted for and not “lost”. Repair crews are trained to handle main breaks efficiently. The faster the break is located and repaired the less water that is wasted. And just as important as repairing breaks is detecting the small leaks that are harder to find but still create lost water. This all adds up to less wasted water and less waste means less cost for you.

Spokane keeps looking better and better! You can see that the City is more than just competitive. Besides working hard to make sure your water is as inexpensive as possible, we place high emphasis on making sure your water service is of high quality, reliable, and most importantly safe for you and your family.

Having said all this, it’s time for all of us to cut back on our water use. Just because water rates are low in Spokane doesn’t mean we don’t need to implement water stewardship techniques. Spokane area residents were called “water hogs” in a recent environmental lawsuit and the Washington State Department of Health is passing new rules on water conservation. The City tries to meet all these requirements through public education, maintenance of the distribution system, and voluntary efforts on the part of citizens. However, everyone knows that the best way to see noticeable conservation of a resource is to put money on the line. The City Council has implemented a water rate system for 2007 that would encourage consumers to use less water in the summer time. This means that residential consumers who use more than 45 units a month would fall into a new rate category. Every unit over the first 45 would cost $0.85. While this is still less than water providers on the East and West Coast, it is hoped that this is enough of an increase to encourage everyone to find ways to save water in the summertime. For tips on how you can make sure to stay below the 45 units, visit the Water Stewardship Program website . Thanks for your help, and remember, every drop of water counts.

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