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Waukesha Water Rates Will Increase 27%

Wisconsin Public Service Commission approves Waukesha Water Utility's rate increase request as the city looks toward developing a new water supply.

will soon see the financial effects of the city’s search for a new water supply. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission approved this week a 27 percent water rate increase.

The rate increase was done in preparation for the water utility’s borrowing needs as it looks to develop a new water supply to meet a June 2018 deadline. The water increase is the first of a series of four or five water rate increases around 25 percent as the city’s looking at spending millions to address the decline in water quantity and quality.

“This is the first of those increases,” said Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak.

Waukesha requested a rate increase of $2.2 million – 25 percent – in December 2011. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission approved a rate increase of 27 percent, which is about $2.3 million.

The Waukesha Water Utility has said for years that the project is likely to double local water bills. The water increase is applicable to the water portion of the bill and does not include the sewer portion of the bill.

The water utility to demonstrate to lenders that the water utility will be able to pay off the money it will borrow during the upcoming years to fund projects to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandated radium levels, according to the discussion at a November 2011 utility meet.

The Waukesha Common Council agreed two years ago to apply for Great Lakes water as its primary option to reduce the radium levels. The city needs approvals first from the DNR and the Wisconsin governor. Then the application advances to all the Great Lakes states, which have to also approve the application because Waukesha is located just outside the Great Lakes basin.

n to divert the water from Lake Michigan is currently pending with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Waukesha is looking to pipe water from Lake Michigan; it also plans to return the water to the Great Lakes. Waukesha originally planned to negotiate a water sales agreement with Milwaukee, Oak Creek or Racine, but . Oak Creek and Racine are still negotiating with Waukesha and a water sale proposal could be finalized in August.

Sandie July 12, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Wow, what next? Feeling like my well is getting sucked dry. Wages are frozen, asked to pay more for so called benefits, while the benefits ask for catastrophic deductibles. Have to charge my gas at the pumps cause when it goes up, it goes WAY up, and when barrel prices drop, it sprinkles down. Food prices will rise because of the drought, already warned. Why not double our water bills? I don't know what the answer is, maybe the 1% who don't bat an eye at all the cost of living increases the rest of us experience, can shed some hope for the rest of us who can hardly afford a trip to the Dells, little lone fly somewhere in a plane.
Steve Edlund July 12, 2012 at 02:05 PM
This is the first of 4 planned rate increase requests for a Lake Michigan diversion, the only approved source option pursuit by the Waukesha Common Council. In essence, the council approved tax increases which will impact other areas of the budget under revenue limits for both the city and the school district. The rate increase indirectly impacts property taxes (think school district, public authority, overhead for commercial and industrial customers who pass costs on to consumers, (think gardens and gifts). Pursuit of a Lake Michigan water requires studies of other options whether the application is approved or not. The cost of the infrastructure to construct pipelines will be but a fraction of the true rate increase for the cost of Lake Michigan water from another community. The community identified by example to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission as Milwaukee.
KKM July 12, 2012 at 02:18 PM
We were warned this was coming. With the latest drought it's made me look closer at how much we waste water each hour, each day. I set a dish pan in the sink and captured all water I used in one day just washing hands, rinsing off fruits and veggies, rinsing dishes, emptying water glasses, wetting wash rags...it came to nearly 4 gallons of wasted water. I used it all to water my plants and bushes. Grey water is perfect for this..bath water (no bubbles), rinse water from the washing machine can be used to water plants. I have huge perennial gardens and only watered then once since mid May. Perennials need less watering and grow deeper roots searching for water. I have a rainbarrel that has been dry since mid May.I don't have annuals since they are thirsty all the time. My lawn is brown and I'm ok with that...it's dormant. Haven't watered my lawn in 6 years since it was seeded. We will waste less when we have to pay more.
William July 12, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Drive through the wealthy areas. Their green lawns and 5 figure landscaping indicate they don't share your concern.
KKM July 12, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Agreed, I have a neighbor that says to hell with the watering restrictions of what days to water and puts his sprinkler out every day. Easy to tell which properties adhere to those rules. I feel better knowing I'm doing what I can to conserve.
Steve Edlund July 12, 2012 at 06:47 PM
@KKM Good for you. You and many others demonstrate that water conservation is much more than toilet rebates. This is a big fear of the water utility. Less water sold means less revenue. Water from Milwaukee, Oak Creek, or Racine will certainly mean an abundant supply at a very high cost to the community and certainly dwindling revenue with less water sold. Local sources will encourage conservation. We have many more options than a Great Lakes Diversion.
Herbert July 12, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Being a Waukesha property owner for the past 12 years I seem to remember that this problem has been looming the city all along. I would of much rather had a small increase every year than a 27% hit with more to come. Much easier to adjust budgets in small increments than what I am estimated this will cost my family of 5.
Paul Furrer July 13, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Mr. Edlund, in essence the Waukesha Common Council has always and will always vote for the least expensive option short of sacrificing public safety. A long term permanent solution from Lake Michigan trumps the temporary fix of filtration on our deep wells plus adding numerous shallow wells in our neighbors' back yards followed still in 30 years by an attempt to buy Great Lakes water, which then, people will say we should have done in the first place. (And you should know as a School Board Member that revenue limits have nothing to do with utility rate charges.) The studies are done and the numbers are in, we can't conserve our way out of this problem - even without Milwaukee - the cheapest option in the long run is Great Lakes water.
Steve Edlund July 13, 2012 at 10:39 AM
@Mr Furrer, When you state "least expensive option", are you referring to capital costs or rates for consumers? And"even without Milwaukee", without speculating can you please provide your sources?
Paul Furrer July 15, 2012 at 12:33 AM
My sources (see below comment)? Read the Great Lakes Application - http://www.ci.waukesha.wi.us/982 - I know you have, you just disagree with the conclusions. Okay, you're entitled to your option just not your own facts. What's my secret inside dope for saying that the City Council is looking for the best deal? It's no secret that the Common Council members are our neighbors who care about our City, nobody has a monopoly on that. I believe they are going to gather the facts, consult with their constituents, and then vote their conscience, same as you would. But we can't vote for resources we don't have. The water under our feet is disappearing. How to best structure that cost on behalf of the rate payers is the question they've been grappling with for over a decade. The chickens have come home to roost. The radium issue just moved the timeline forward. It's simple but expensive both in money and political willpower. It comes down too - pay now or pay now and more later. If we ultimately pay more in the long run by not getting Great Lakes water it won't be the first time we've saddled the next generation with problems we didn't want to solve ourselves.
Steve Edlund July 15, 2012 at 04:05 AM
@ Paul, Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, you're dealing with outdated info. Since the Milwaukee deal isn't going to happen the potential $50 million in Army Corp of Engineering funds is dead. The info submitted to the Public Service Commission http://psc.wi.gov/apps40/dockets/content/detail.aspx?dockt_id=6240-WR-107 states that the next cheapest option is Oak Creek with a Underwood Creek return at $261 million. That's $97 million more than Milwaukee plus the loss of the potential $50 million which Milwaukee will want their hands on. Add to the O&M cost the cost of purchasing the water from Oak Creek. There is only 1 local option more expensive than Oak Creek at $350 million, but the water is free for all local options. There's even options the utility hasn't looked at. Like it or not, all these options available to Waukesha will be examined by the Council of Great Lakes Governors and how can they not tell us to come back when when have no other options. It's not our decision. How much more will we raise water rates on chasing a pot of liquid gold? Wasted money could be spent on fixing the problem we have now - a court ordered mandate. Keep in mind , Paul that the water rates didn't go up 27% on apartments, businesses, and industry. They eclipsed 30% and this is the first of 4 proposed increases. The longer the council prolongs the pursuit of Lake Michigan water, the greater the deterrent to live and do business in the City of Waukesha.
Sarah Millard (Editor) July 15, 2012 at 06:22 AM
Steve, Where do you get your information that the federal dollars won't pay for the project unless it is Milwaukee? That's seemingly incorrect information unless you have details otherwise?
Paul Furrer July 15, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Mr Edlund, one talked about grant is not the only Federal money that exists. Many people feel that the Federal Government is in part responsible for our problem via the EPA's radium level ruling and as such the Federal Government can help fund a solution. I'm not embarrassed to have our leaders ask. This rate increase is a done deal now but the larger questions remain. I'm willing to wait for negotiations and the application process to finish. With respect to costs, the longer we wait at expending our deep well filtration project (if deigned Lake Michigan water) the cheaper it will be. It cost money to operate these filters (I know it costs money to buy Lake Michigan water too so if you ask me we don't switch anything until the last minute anyway.) Who knows, if we are forced to continue on local water resources maybe in 20 years (when our water runs low) Milwaukee will be back at the table as the shortest distance to the Lake. But my guess is that even decades hence "Milwaukee" will still be used here as a dirty word to score political points much the same way that "Waukesha" is used there for the same.

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