Your water bill is going up (slightly). Here’s why

That small increase helps us make big system upgrades, ensure water reliability and plan for future needs.

December 14, 2016 | By: Jay Adams, Steve Snyder

Nobody likes to pay a bill.

No matter how much you like a service or how essential it may be, handing over your hard-earned money to somebody else — particularly if that bill often increases from year to year — is never fun.

But when it comes to your water bill, the simple fact is the cost of running a complex water system continues to rise. Your bill helps to maintain and upgrade a vast infrastructure that allows us to collect, treat and deliver safe, reliable water, while also providing for essential fire protection services.

You’ll see some slight increases in your water bill starting April 1, 2017. Here are the answers to three questions you may be asking:

  1. Crews work to place the concrete floor of one of the new Hillcrest treated water storage tanks on Dec. 10.
    Crews work to place the concrete floor of one of the new Hillcrest treated water storage tanks on Dec. 10. Denver Water is in the middle of a $100 million project to improve the safety and reliability of its Hillcrest facility by replacing two 15-million-gallon underground water storage tanks with three 15-million-gallon tanks, and a pump station.

    Why are you raising my rates?

We have a large, intricate system with a lot of aging infrastructure. With a 5-year, $1.3 billion capital plan, we’re staying on top of the upgrades and new projects needed to keep this system running.

(Watch the video at the top of the page to see the kinds of projects, like replacing failing underground storage tanks and aging pipes.)

To keep up with this necessary work, we are increasing the monthly fixed charge on your bill to help us even out our revenues over the year so we can repair and upgrade our system. This means less reliance on revenues from how much water customers use, which has become increasingly difficult to predict in recent years given the more frequent and extreme weather fluctuations.

  1. How much is my water bill going up?

That depends on the type of customer you are and how you use water. Your bill is comprised of a fixed monthly charge and charges for how much water you use.

Every customer will see an increase to their monthly fixed charge. If you’re like most residential customers who have a 3/4-inch meter, that charge will increase from $8.79 to $11.86 per month.

To help offset the fixed monthly charge, the charge per 1,000 gallons for many customers will see a small decrease in 2017.

Adding up those two elements, if you live in Denver and use 115,000 gallons of water a year in the same way you did in 2016, you can expect to see an annual increase of about $29, which averages out to a monthly increase of about $2.40 a month. (Summer bills are typically higher because of outdoor water use.)

If you live in the suburbs and get your water from one of our 66 distributors, your bill will be higher than Denver residents’. That’s because the Denver City Charter requires that suburban customers pay the full cost of service, plus an additional amount.

  1. You ask me to use less water and then raise my rates. Am I being penalized for conservation?

We always encourage conservation and the efficient use of water. In fact, rates would be higher without our customers’ conservation efforts; we’d have to build more treatment and distribution facilities to keep up with the demand for water.

For example, your conservation efforts are saving Denver Water an estimated $155 million on a new treatment plant and storage facilities because it doesn’t have to be as big as we originally estimated. That’s $155 million we don’t have to recover through rates and charges.

No one likes paying higher bills, but consider the overall value of water. Most Denver Water customers will still pay about $3 for 1,000 gallons of water.

And while rates are going up, Denver Water is committed to keeping water affordable, particularly for the essential indoor water use that is vital for drinking, cooking and sanitation. In 2017, customers will continue to pay the lowest rate for what they use indoors.

If you’d like to talk over your bill with someone, contact Denver Water’s Customer Care team at 303-893-2444, and a representative will help you calculate your individual bill impacts, based on your personal water-use information.

4 thoughts on “Your water bill is going up (slightly). Here’s why”

  1. I have a xeriscaped yard, and use only 14,000 gallons a year, so by this new rate structure, my bill shoots up by about $120 a year – a 30% increase! And at the same time, someone who wastes thousands of gallons a year watering a lawn will be paying just $29 a year more? What a massive insult to those of us who care about conservation!

    1. The projected increase from 2016 to 2017 for a typical customer using 14,000 gallons of water a year would be about $36, or $3 a month. For a better understanding of your personal bill impacts, we recommend calling our customer care team at 303-893-2444. This team can use your personal information to provide you with a representation of what you can expect on your water bill and why.

      As we face more uncertainty in weather fluctuations from climate change (which affects water usage), we also risk instability in annual revenues. To help stabilize revenues, we increased the fixed charge in 2017. As part of this adjustment, we lowered the volumetric rates to ensure we are not collecting too much revenue from our customers.

      We appreciate your continued commitment to conservation, and assure you that water efficiency continues to be important in our strategy to ensure customers have a sustainable supply of water in the future. That’s why we still have a tiered rate structure.

      The more individualized structure that started in 2016 helps to ensure water used indoors — for essential uses like cooking and cleaning — is less expensive than water used outdoors. The amount each customer uses inside during the winter is what the first tier rate will be for that customer all year. That means those watering landscapes will pay the second-tier pricing for an average-sized lot, and anything over that will be charged at the highest amount.

  2. After having watched rates for the last ten years, there has never been a net decrease even with a reduction in water usage. And as the prior comment notes, those using more than 100,000/year get the same rate increase as those of us at leass than half that level. One consideration would be a more progressive rate schedule which would further create incentives for reductions in use.

    BTW, the one rain barrel limit is a joke. So much for our ability to use what falls on our property as storm water claims it for cleaning their system. Caught on both ends when we try to be more environmentally conscientious.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. For a bit more background on the current rate structure, before it was implemented in 2016, we spent more than two years researching utility best practices and seeking input from customers and community leaders. The new structure was designed to balance affordability, conservation and revenue stability.

      As for rain barrels, Colorado water law is complex, but the bill signed in 2016 allows Coloradans to use two 55-gallon rain barrels per household is a good start. The Colorado Division of Water Resources is the best place for more information about the new law: http://water.state.co.us/surfacewater/RainwaterCollection/Pages/default.aspx.

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