Sewer Fees: Helping To Recycle A Valuable Resource
By Kathleen Ferris
When you pay your water bill, a big part of the charges is something called a sewer fee. If you live in an AMWUA member city, it's the responsibility of your city's water department to drain wastewater out of your neighborhood as quickly as possible. Your city then treats that wastewater and puts it back to good use. Cities charge a sewer fee to pay for building, operating and maintaining this sewer collection, treatment and reuse system.
A sewer system relies mainly on gravity to carry wastewater to a treatment plant but needs occasional pumps to lift it over high points. Cities build their own sewage treatment plants or partner to build them. For example, the 91st Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant is owned by the five AMWUA cities of Mesa, Phoenix, Glendale, Tempe and Scottsdale and is operated by the City of Phoenix.
AMWUA’s ten member cities reuse about 95 percent of the wastewater they treat for many purposes. Treated wastewater, called reclaimed water, is used to cool the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, to irrigate crops, and to water large turf areas in HOAs or on golf courses. Some cities store reclaimed water underground for the future.
Cities calculate sewer fees in different ways. The City of Chandler has a flat single-family home sewer fee of $26.35 based on the cost of service.
Some AMWUA member cities base their sewer fees on the amount of water a customer uses during the winter months when use is lowest. These calculations are reflected in next year’s water bills. Here’s how the City of Peoria determines a homeowner’s wastewater rate.
- The city averages how much water a residential customer uses in four months: December, January, February and March.
- It then charges $2.09 for every 1,000 gallons used, plus a monthly base fee determined by the size of customer’s meter. For most single-family homes that fee is $8.65.
- The city applies this rate to your bill the following July 1 and every bill through the next June. (By the way, Peoria has a utility bill estimator that can help you determine your water charges.)
Illustration: City of Peoria, AZ
Most cities' websites show you how your sewer fee is calculated, and some cities allow you to request a sewer rate adjustment if your water-use was unusually high during winter months.
So, reducing your sewer fee may be another good reason to conserve your water use. You should reset your irrigation timers to water mature winter rye grass and not seedlings. You can also cut back on other outdoor water uses. Many desert-adapted plants do well with no water, or very little, during the winter months. It’s not the time to fill your swimming pool, but it is time to check if it may be leaking. The Smart Home Water Guide gives you step-by-step help to find and fix leaks inside and outside your home.
There’s no time like the present to save water – and money.
For 46 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.