Why Denver water costs more in the ‘burbs

In 2018, some suburban customers will pay about $100 more for their water. Here’s how it breaks down.

November 15, 2017 | By: Kim Unger, Travis Thompson
A section of Main Street in Littleton, Colorado.
A section of Main Street in Littleton, Colorado. The city of Littleton has been one of Denver Water’s 65 distributors since 1970. Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall, Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to water bills, no two customers are alike. Denver Water bills are highly individualized, based on customers’ overall consumption and how much water they use indoors vs. outdoors, among other factors.

To further complicate the matter, your water rates will be higher if you live in the suburbs and receive Denver Water.

But why?

It comes down to history. Denver Water was formed in 1918 to serve the City and County of Denver. For decades, we only could serve water to the suburbs on a year-to-year basis. In 1959, the Denver City Charter was changed to allow permanent leases of water to the suburbs based on two conditions: 1) there always would be an adequate supply for the citizens of Denver, and 2) suburban customers pay the full cost of service, plus an additional amount.

When determining 2018 rates, which you can read about in “Your water bill is going up (slightly). Here’s why,” we worked with our suburban partners to develop a system that provides those communities with a fair and stable additional charge. It looks like this:

First, the fixed monthly charge on your bill is the same no matter where you live. This part of the bill is determined by the size of your meter. Most residential customers have a 3/4-inch meter and will pay $15.39 each month, suburbs and city alike.

For suburban customers, the full cost of service, plus the additional amount per the city charter is then factored in.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Total Service customers pay the highest rates because they receive the same services as Denver customers. That means Denver Water employees work in these outlying areas to operate and maintain the infrastructure, provide customer service and much more. Next year, a typical customer who uses 84,000 gallons of water will pay an average of $547. In 2018, that’s $113 more than a comparable city-dweller.

Read and Bill customers pay the second-highest rates. They receive Denver water, along with some basic services, like reading meters and sending bills. But we don’t provide system maintenance and repairs; that work is handled by the suburban distributor. A Read and Bill customer that uses 84,000 gallons of water can expect to pay about $459 next year, about $25 more a year than those inside Denver.

And finally, there are Master Meter customers. These are not residential customers, but cities that buy treated water at a wholesale rate.

Learn more about our relationship with residential customers who receive a Denver Water bill, and what 2018 water rates mean for those receiving a Denver Water bill:

Customers in Denver tend to use less than 84,000 gallons per year; suburban customers tend to use more, but 84,000 gallons represents the median water use for all residential customers.

1 thought on “Why Denver water costs more in the ‘burbs”

  1. We lived in Littleton for several years. Near Arapahoe High School. We never had a bill over $40.00 for the water. Now, we live in Highlands Ranch, and the bill has NEVER been under $140.00. I don’t understand this. On top of everything…… The water in Littleton/Centennial..;… tastes better! I have so much minerals in the water in H.R. The water is damaging our dish washer, dishes, etc…

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