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Effective January 1, 2018, there will be an average 14% combined rate increase to water and sewer bills in Montgomery County. The rate increase will vary depending on the size of your water meter and your average water usage.
Average Montgomery County residential customers pay about $170 per quarter for water and sewer. This rate increase will add about $24 to their quarterly bill in 2018. To put that in perspective, that's just one extra cent for every 6 gallons of water.
Business and commercial customers require more infrastructure and service capacity than residential customers (e.g., water main size, fire suppression needs, and consumption patterns). (See table below.)
In 2018, we will adjust our fixed charges so that business and commercial customers pay the appropriate amount for the larger demand they place on the system. This adjustment will make our charges more equitable. It also means that business and commercial customers will see a larger one-time rate increase in 2018. After 2018, we will have flat percentage rate increases for all customer classes.
Montgomery County, Ohio, water and sewer rates are competitive and reasonable, even after the 2018 rate increase, when compared to other local jurisdictions and similar metropolitan areas.
Montgomery County charges $254 per quarter for 30 CCF (22,442 gallons) of water. Other local jurisdictions charge from $169 to $491 for the same volume of water. The chart below illustrates our current rates as well as the impact of the 2018 rate increase, compared to similar water and sewer service providers.
A portion of the water and sewer bill has always been based on how much water you use, and that will still account for a substantial portion of the overall bill. Customers can save money by conserving water, which will reduce the amount they pay every quarter. You can visit our webpage for water conservation tips.
If you are a commercial or business customer, you may be able to reduce your costs by downsizing your meter. We allow customers to request a decrease in their meter size, provided the customer and his/her plumbing contractor determine that a smaller meter will meet the building or facility's water usage needs. All plumbing changes and upgrades related to the new meter size must still adhere to current Montgomery County Rules and Regulations and may require permits and inspections of completed plumbing work. All costs associated with upgrading and replacing the meter are the responsibility of the customer. For more information call permits at 937-781-2653.
Our revenue is flat, largely due to decreasing water consumption, as well as below-average rate increases. In fact, we had no rate increases at all for four years straight from 2010 to 2013, because we wanted to help our constituents during the Great Recession. Now, we need to increase rates so that we can fund necessary infrastructure projects.
In addition, much of our infrastructure is getting old and needs to be replaced. The cost to maintain and upgrade our infrastructure continues to increase and will only get worse as the entire system ages. For example, we spend about $2 million every year to repair main breaks, and the cost has been steadily rising as our system ages. Without more investment in our aging water and sewer system, we will begin to experience:
Our water and sewer systems protect public health and the environment, support economic development, and ensure a high quality of life for our citizens. Many times we take these vital services for granted, simply because they are always there when we need them and much of the infrastructure is "out of sight and out of mind." We must reinvest in our water and sewer system to make sure that it continues to support our local economy, our communities, and our environment. The time is now.
Most of our water and sewer system was installed in the 1950s during a housing and commercial boom. Now, much of this infrastructure is reaching the end of its usable life and needs to be replaced or upgraded.
Specifically, about 50% of our underground pipes are at least 50 years old, and these older pipes experience more frequent breaks and stoppages. Our wastewater treatment plants were installed 35 to 45 years ago with help from the federal government, and that funding source no longer exists.
The 2018 rate increase will generate approximately $13.2 million in revenue, $6 million in water, and $7.2 million in sewer. This money will be used to repair, replace, and upgrade our aging infrastructure. For more information about our current and planned capital investments, visit our capital projects page.
Money generated from the rate increase will be used to replace underground water and sewer lines. The cost to replace just one mile of water mains is about $1 million. We have about 1,400 miles of water mains, and 50% of those mains are 50 years old or older. Newer pipes will experience fewer main breaks, which means reduced maintenance costs, as well as fewer road closures and detours.
The money will also be used to improve the safety and resiliency of our water and sewer system by investing in two major projects:
Finally, some of these funds will be used to maintain our current aboveground assets, such as water towers, pump stations, and wastewater treatment plants.
We are a high-performing utility with high customer satisfaction (i.e., We had at least 93% high customer satisfaction in most recent surveys.). We just received the 2016 AMWA Gold Award for Sustainable Utility Management. Over the past 10 years, we've had minimal increases in our operating costs and we make every effort to be efficient with our resources, such as:
The County has realized efficiencies wherever possible by using new technology, finding innovative solutions to problems, using current resources wisely, and reducing costs. We also employ fewer people, despite rising overhead costs and an aging system. We are always working to keep costs down and be more efficient.
However, this is not sustainable. Maintenance costs continue to increase, and many areas of the system are reaching the end of their usable life. Efficiency alone will not solve this problem. We must invest in our water and sewer infrastructure now. Rates must increase if we are to continue providing reliable and safe drinking water and sewer services to our citizens.