The thirteenth annual edition of AE2S’ annual water, wastewater, and stormwater utility rate survey is being prepared for release to survey participants. We’d like to thank those that participated, and are pleased to report that 115 systems serving greater than 5,000 people, 90 systems serving less than 5,000 people, and 36 regional water systems took part in the survey this year, for a total of 241 survey participants.
The Rate Survey was prepared based on information received from communities and regional water systems in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Two survey reports are being prepared for distribution: one for systems serving 5,000 people or more, including systems in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area; and a second survey for systems serving less than 5,000 people and regional water systems. The results of the survey are reported based on an assumed average monthly residential water use value of 6,000 gallons. Results from the regional survey respondents are not discussed here, but will be addressed in a future edition of The Source.
Figure 1 provides historical perspective on survey participation from systems serving greater than 5,000 people (blue bar), excluding the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, and systems serving less than 5,000 people (red bar). The green line represents the percentage of survey respondents that increased their water rates each year, and the purple line shows the percentage of respondents that reported an increase to their wastewater rates. The graph shows that in 2013, more than half of the survey respondents reported increases to both water and wastewater rates.
Reported Rate Increases
Of systems serving greater than 5,000 people, including those respondents from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, 67 percent indicated that water rates increased in 2013. For the same group, the results indicated that 69 and 42 percent of systems also increased rates for wastewater and stormwater, respectively. The average percent increase for each utility by population, is shown in Figure 2 for metro and non-metro systems serving 5,000 or more people.
Overall, the average increases for water, wastewater, and stormwater for systems serving 5,000 people or more were 7.5 percent, 6.5 percent, and 5.8 percent, respectively. For comparison, in 2012 the average increases for systems of this size were 5.7 percent for water, 7.0 percent for wastewater, and 16.4 percent for stormwater.
For systems serving less than 5,000 people, 82 percent of respondents increased water rates, 71 percent increased wastewater rates, and 68 percent increased stormwater rates in 2013. Figure 3 illustrates the average water and wastewater increases by population for the small systems. It should be noted that only 24 percent of respondents in the small survey reported having a stormwater utility, and of those, only a couple reported a 2013 increase. Due to the small sample size, the average increase by population is not reported for stormwater in Figure 3.
For the systems serving less than 5,000 people, the average reported increases for water and wastewater in 2013 are 16.5 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively. This compares to average increases for water and wastewater of 16.2 percent and 13.2 percent last year.
Figure 4 illustrates the average monthly water and wastewater charges by population grouping, based on an assumed average monthly water use value of 6,000 gallons.
From a historical perspective, the average water and wastewater charge for 6,000 gallons in our region from 2012 to 2013 has climbed at a rate higher than inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). Figures 5 and 6 illustrate the change in average charges for 6,000 gallons of water and wastewater service since 2002 for systems serving greater than 5,000 people (including the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area) and systems serving less than 5,000 people, respectively. The results illustrate the challenge that utility managers and policy makers continue to face in meeting financial demands of operating systems while striving to minimize increases to user charges.
AE2S Nexus hopes that the results of the survey will be useful to your community or regional system as you evaluate your utility rate charges and plan for the future. If you participated in the 2013 Rate Survey, watch for your copy to be delivered by mail or by an AE2S or AE2S Nexus representative soon. If you have questions related to the 2013 North Central Region Utility Rate Survey, please contact Miranda Kleven at 701-746-8087 or Miranda.Kleven@ae2s.com.