The true cost of water
Water Cost Fact #1:
Buckeye officials are continually planning for our future by maintaining and further developing a sustainable water supply. Buckeye’s current water portfolio consists of 100 percent groundwater. Groundwater is a more expensive water source to use than surface water since it must be pumped from the ground, to the treatment facility, then into the distribution system before reaching your home. This process costs millions of dollars each year.
In comparison, surface water such as Salt, Verde or Colorado river water, is a less expensive water source to treat because no pumping from the ground in required. Water treatment plants located near these water sources can redirect their water allocations to the treatment plant for much less than what it costs to pump water from the ground.
The city of Buckeye is not located in an area with a river that has regular flow to use as one of its water sources. However, Buckeye is located in a valley where water absorbs quickly into the ground. This groundwater is what we use as our water supply.
Water Cost Fact #2:
Before a single drop of water is delivered to your home, millions of dollars are spent to access, treat, store and build the infrastructure to deliver it to you. We are 100 dependent on groundwater, which means that all of our water comes from one supply. The city is must also comply with regulatory requirements in the Arizona Groundwater Rule to report all groundwater pumped and work to replenish the aquifer from where water is drawn.
Water Cost Fact #3:
To deliver water to our residents, it requires deep water pumps, motors, pipelines, large/small pipes, booster pumps, million gallon tanks, chlorine and other equipment as well as city employee labor.
Here is an example of the costs it takes monthly and annually to provide water and sewer services to your home.
- Annual Electricity for all wells, treatment plants and booster stations – $1,650,000; Monthly Average – $138,000.
- Annual Chemical Costs for water production and quality compliance – $150,000. Monthly Average -$12,600.
- Annual O&M costs to pump, treat and deliver water, including the wells, treatment plants, distribution main repairs and water meter replacements – $5.5 million. Monthly Average – $450,000
- Annual Electricity for the treatment facilities and lift stations – $660,000. Monthly average of $55,000
- Annual Chemical for wastewater treatment and quality compliance – $280,000. Monthly average $24,000
- Annual O&M costs to pump and treat wastewater – $2.5 Million. Monthly average $200,000.
- In addition to the main elements described above, the department staffs approximately 73 people to serve and provide utility services.
Water Cost Fact #4
City of Buckeye water revenues (or money that came in to the city through water bills) totals about 9 million dollars a year (according to FY 2014-2015). The total expenditures (money spent on water services and equipment) totaled over 12 million dollars in the same year.
During that year, the Water Department experienced a shortfall of $3 million. Since there was not a significant rate increase since 1987, the shortfall in water revenues left the city with a difficult decision to increase the water rates to cover the costs it takes to provide water to our customers. These expenditures included new debt service (the revenue required to cover the repayment of interest and principal for a specific time period) and much overdue repairs and replacement of aging equipment repairs and replacement.
Water Cost Fact #5:
In July 2015, the City of Buckeye acquired a private water company, Global Water, and created 7,000 new customers overnight for the city. To acquire this company, the city used the existing rate structure of Global Water customers to fund the purchase. Existing Buckeye customers were not affected by this action. The acquisition of the company was to ensure water quality and to protect future growth and infrastructure needs.
As any business merger, we experienced growing pains, but we implemented new phone policies and communication outlets to ensure we can better communicate with our customers. Please visit www.buckeyeaz.gov/water-resources for the latest news and information.
Water Cost Fact #6:
Prior to 2013, the city of Buckeye has only approved one significant water rate increase since 1987. As the population grows at an exponential rate, it created a much higher demand on our water resources and infrastructure. We provide water service to over 600 square miles, more than 60,000 residents and 19,000 accounts.
Water Cost Fact #7:
In 2013, new water rates were adopted and separate into incremental increases over the next four years to reduce the financial impact on our residents.
The first rate increase was in 2013, and the second in April 2015. The third increase came in January 2016. In November of 2016, water rates were reduced for residential customers and frozen for 2017. The city reviews its rate structure annually and any rates changes must be approved by City Council.
Water Cost Fact #8:
Buckeye’s Water Resources Department is operated as an enterprise, and does not make a profit from customers. Funds collected from customers’ water bills are used to pay for the pumping, treatment and delivery of our water supply to our residents.
Water Cost Fact #9:
The funds gathered from water rates, including rate increases, are not utilized to build new infrastructure, but rather to maintain current infrastructure. Money to build new infrastructure comes from a $28 million bond passed by voters in 2012. Since that election, the city has been able to build 10 miles of pipeline, which costs more than one million dollars per mile to construct.
Water Cost Fact #10:
The money collected from water rates goes directly into a water enterprise fund. This is a separate, self-sufficient account and not part of the general fund (property taxes and sales taxes) monies. The water department runs strictly on water rates collected and does not receive any funding from the city’s general fund.
In fact, Water Resources helps pay for the city’s support services such as finance, human resources, and legal. Also, Water Resources does not receive any of the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD) funds that are collected from property taxes. These funds are paid to the CAGRD to offset the groundwater that is delivered to residents.
Water Cost Fact #11:
There are numerous causes behind high water bills. They can be the result of irrigation or landscaping leaks, filling swimming pools, the use of water softeners or even water theft. You can complete your own water audit to avoid high water bills and see where you can conserve water at www.wateruseitwisely.com. For questions about your bill, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Water Cost Fact #12:
The most recent water rate study, completed in 2013, established that the average amount of water used by Buckeye residents is about 7,000 gallons per month. Based on this information, a tiered-rate structure was established to encourage water conservation to help residents save money on their monthly water service.
Once you use over 6,000 gallons in a month, this water is charged to you at a higher rate. Using less water not only saves you money; it also helps the city meet the goal of providing and maintaining a sustainable water source for future generations. Here are some helpful ways to minimize water usage per month:
- Reducing discretionary outdoor water uses such as car, patio, sidewalk or driveway washing
- Reducing evaporation losses by avoiding landscape watering during the heat of the day
- Using smart irrigation controllers
- Limiting showers to 5 minutes or less
- Selectively replacing turf with xeriscape or lower water-use landscaping
- Discouraging winter over-seeding
- Washing only full loads of laundry or dishes
- Adjusting sprinklers to reduce overspray and run-off into streets
Water Cost Fact #13:
City water customers have several ways to contact staff if they need assistance. You may call the main line 623-349-6100, or email email@example.com and get a response within 24 hours during business hours.
You can also pay your bill 24 hours per day by mail, phone, at the kiosk located outside of city hall, and online. If you prefer to pay in person, you may do so during business hours, Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Water Cost Fact #14:
Once water leaves our home, we generally don’t spend too much time thinking about where it went. But the process of treating our wastewater is vital to the health of the environmental. If you are connected to the city sewer system, wastewater that leaves your home travels through the city’s system to a wastewater treatment plant.
The wastewater is processed and the final product, effluent, must meet strict EPA and state guidelines to protect the environment before it is discharged. Buckeye sses effluent, or reclaimed water, in a variety of ways including golf course and park irrigation. This has the benefit of not using groundwater for these purposes, protect our water sources for drinking and other essential uses.
Another beneficial use is for “recharge”, where the city replenishes our groundwater source by pumping the treated wastewater back into the aquifer. Don’t worry, it takes decades for this water to soak into the ground deep enough to reach our pumps, and along the way, the rock and sand it passes through acts as another filter.
What is wastewater and why treat it
Water Cost Fact #15:
While the city of Buckeye works hard to ensure that water rates remain manageable for our residents, it is necessary to increase rates over time in order to serve our rising population’s demand.
The water that is delivered to your home is done so as a direct result of using the funds gathered through your water bill to maintain and improve our water delivery and treatment systems and methods.
Over time, we will continue to enhance these systems and methods to ensure that only the highest quality water is delivered to your homes and that rates will remain manageable in perpetuity.
Water Cost Fact #16:
The process of delivering water to your home is an intricate one. Assuming you don’t use water from your own well, your water likely comes from a water tower, usually located at high altitude somewhere within the city.
While gravity does a lot of the work in the initial phases of running water to your taps, it takes electricity to run the pumps that push water through an intricate network of underground pipes that eventually lead to your home.
This process and system represent a significant cost in water delivery, and the funds collected from your water bill go towards ensuring that this system is maintained properly to keep water running efficiently.
Water Cost Fact #17:
National Geographic predicts that by “2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with two-thirds of the world’s population living in water-stressed regions as a result of use, growth and climate change.”