USH 12 Middleton Bypass | Middleton, WI

New 'Cost of Clean' Report Reveals 20 Years of Trends

Posted on 10/18/2016 12:36 PM


For the past 20 years, MSA has been studying the cost of clean water. The firm just released results of its 8th Wisconsin Cost of Clean Report, the most comprehensive information available on sanitary sewer services in the state. It gives communities the information they need to compare their current and proposed sewer rates with those of communities of a similar size.

“The most consistent relationship observed throughout the past 20 years is between annual sewer rates and population,” said Tom Fitzwilliams, MSA team leader, Baraboo, Wisconsin, and author of the report. “Even though residents of the largest communities consume the most water, they pay less for their sewer service. The economy of scale works greatly to the advantage of larger communities.” 

Decrease of Grant Funds

Sewer rates are just one reflection of the true cost of water. In Wisconsin, residents are used to cheap water rates and the perception is that water is abundant. But communities like Waukesha have struggled with water supply. In addition, the generous grant funding that helped pay for infrastructure is no longer available at that level and treatment requirements continue to grow stricter.

“The price of water should reflect all the capital, operating and replacement costs necessary to produce, treat and deliver water in a manner that is truly sustainable,” Fitzwilliams said.

Clean Water is a Bargain

Compared to other utilities, clean water is a bargain, he noted. The survey indicates that users pay a $153 monthly fee, on average, for their mobile phone bill, but only $37 for sewer and $21 for water.

Fitzwilliams encourages communities to educate their citizens about the cost of clean water. With regularly scheduled rate increases, rate payers will be in a better position to meet tomorrow’s regulations designed to protect water quality for all.

Data was obtained from 338 of the publicly owned sewer systems in the state, said Fitzwilliams.

The survey identified the average cost of sewer services in Wisconsin is $37 per month, with the highest monthly charge at $123/month and the lowest at $6/month. 

Since 1996, the cost of sewer residential service has increased an average of 4.3% per year.

“We appreciate the efforts of municipal officials throughout the state who submit the necessary data that adds so much to the quality of this report,” Fitzwilliams said.

For more information about sewer user charge trends, contact Tom Fitzwilliams.

Order Free Survey

Click here to order the free 2016 Wisconsin Sewer User Charge Survey.


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