2020 Water, Sewer and Stormwater Rates
The City of Washougal operates and maintains water, sewer and stormwater utilities, serving more than 16,500 customers. The safe and reliable delivery of these services is of utmost importance to each individual customer and to the overall health of our community. Utility systems are extremely complex and require a substantial financial investment to operate and maintain. Establishing appropriate rates to support the operations of each utility is critically important to ensure the reliability and safety of these services to the community.
How are rates established?
To establish the new rates for each of the utilities, the city hired an independent third party to work closely with key team members over the past 2 years. The largest cost driver for providing utility services is the required capital facilities. To mitigate the impact of rate increases, the group reviewed the capital improvement plans to determine which projects could be deferred until after the current five-year rate window (2023). In total, over $9,600,000 was deferred past the end of the rate study across the three utilities. Since adopting the 2019-2023 utility rates, the city continued to seek efficiencies, including staffing adustments.
When were the new rates set?
On December 2, 2019, the city council adopted new sewer and stormwater rates for the remaining 4 years of the rate window. Along with new sewer rates, a new rated model was implemented; flow-based sewer which seeks to provide all our customers with greater equity.
WATER: No changes to the previously adopted rate increases through 2023.
SEWER: Compared to the previously adopted sewer rates for 2019-2023, the new sewer rates were decreased 2% in 2020, 4.5% in 2021, and increased by 0.25% in 2022 and 2023; an overall decrease of 6% compared to the previously adopted increases.
STORMWATER: Compared to the previously adopted stormwater rates for 2019-2023, the new stormwater rates decrease by 1.5% in 2020 and 2021 and were maintained as adopted for 2022 and 2023—an overall decrease of 3% compared to the previously adopted increases.
Where does revenue from customer-paid utility rates go?
The revenue received from customer-paid rates is, by law, consigned to individual enterprise accounts used exclusively for the cost of providing the utility service. This ensures that utility revenues and costs remain verifiable and separate from the General Fund, which is tax-funded and supports core municipal services such as police, fire, parks and streets.
How are the rates different from last year (2019)?
For the water utility, we continue to move toward a structure in which you only pay for a base fee and actual consumption instead of paying for an allowance (set amount included in the flat fee). This will allow customers to control their bill and those who use the allowance (or less) will notice a decrease in their water portion of the utility bill. By 2023, there will no longer be an allowance in the base fee. This phase-out began in 2013, when the base allowance was 10 CCF (7,480 gallons/bi-monthly). 2020’s CCF allowance will be 3 CCF (2,244 gallons/bi-monthly).
|Meter Size||2020 Bi-Monthly Base Rate||Allowance (CCF)*|
*1 CCF = 100 cubic feet of water = 748 gallons
For usage over 3 CCF, customers will pay the following (per unit):
|Single Family Residential||2020 Volume Change|
|Over 30 CCF||$7.68|
For the sewer utility, we needed to include adequate funding for two costly components of infrastructure over the next five years to remain in compliance with the permit issued to the City by the Washington State Department of Ecology. One of these projects will complete the mechanical plant and bring the City up to current standards for treatment of biosolids (the byproduct of treating wastewater).
2020 will begin a new rate structure for residential sewer customers: flow-based sewer billing. The structure mirrors the water utility by charging a base rate plus consumption and is calculated by using your water consumption. To ensure we are only capturing the true water usage that makes its way to sewer, your sewer bill with be calculated using a winter average; this avoids irrigation or other outside of the house uses and is the industry standard. The billings used to calculate your winter average will be December/February (even month billings) or January/March (odd month billings).
New customers, customers without a winter average or customers that have an average of zero will receive the city average of 11 CCF.
Sewer Rate Structure Example:
If you were to consume 12 CCF in December and 10 ccf in February your billing would include the bi-monthly base rate plus 11 CCF (based on the table to the left) $112.52 + $15.07 (1.37*11) = $127.59).
|2020 Bi-Monthly Base Rate|
|Single Family Residential Sewer||$112.52|
|2020 Volume Charge|
|Single Family Residential per CCF||$1.37|
For the stormwater utility, we were also operating under mandates of the Washington State Department of Ecology and new rules that were published and went into effect in 2019. We were able to identify existing subsidies between commercial and residential customers during the rate study. In 2018, commercial/industrial customers who held a stormwater permit issued by Washington State Department of Ecology received a 75% discount; this was deemed to be beyond the industry standard using market comparables. Over the next four years this discount will be reduced to 50% and the subsidy will be substantially reduced, lowering impacts to residential stormwater rates.
|2020 Bi-Monthly Base Rate|
|Single Family Residential Stormwater||$33.18|