Buckeye and the facts about your drinking water

Every day you turn on your faucet and water comes out. What if one day…it didn’t? The City is responsible for resident water for the next 100 years, and our current officials have accomplished this goal, but we can only keep our water supply by understanding the cost it takes to keep our water clean and potable.

upclose view of water in a glass

Facts about the true cost of water

Water Cost Fact #1:

The National Geographic Freshwater Crisis says, “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.”

That is only 10 years away. Buckeye officials are planning for the future by securing water reserves for our residents, but the water has to be cleaned and delivered which can costs millions of dollars each year just to get water to your home. This cost does not include building new pipes or fixing old equipment.

The fact is – the City of Buckeye does not make a profit. Every dollar that comes in from a water bill is spent on water and water services for our residents.

Water Cost Fact #2:

It costs over one million dollars to build one mile of a new water line. Buckeye has many challenges building new restaurants, shops and factories because of our lack of infrastructure such as water, sewer and gas lines.

The increase in water rates is not to build water infrastructure. Money to build new pipes for example, comes from a $28 million dollar bond voters passed in 2012. Since that election, the city has been able to build 10 miles of pipe.

Water Cost Fact #3:

City water customers have several ways to contact staff if they need assistance. We have a main line 623-349-6100 that on average has a wait time of 22.5 seconds in non-busy hours, and up to 9 minutes in our busiest times. We have an email utilitybilling@buckeyeaz.gov that you can email any time day or night and will get a response within 24 hours during business hours. You can also visit the website for information on water rates, water conservation, irrigation, and much more (visit www.buckeyeaz.gov/water). You can pay bills 24 hours per day by mail, by phone, at the kiosk located outside of city hall, and online. Also you may pay in person during business hours, Monday through Thursday, 7 am-5 pm.

Water Cost Fact #4

Prior to 2013, the City of Buckeye water rates have only had one significant increase since 1987. With population rates growing 678% there has been a much higher demand on water resources. We are servicing over 600 square miles with 60,000 residents and 19,000 accounts. This requires extra travel time, mileage, and time on site. The new rates that have been adopted have been broken into four separate increases over four years to reduce the impact on our residents. The first increase was in 2013, the second was in April 2015. The next increase interval will happen on January 1, 2016 and then again in January 2017. Each year, the city will do an annual evaluation for total transparency.

Water Cost Fact #5:

Before a single drop of water is delivered to your home, millions of dollars have been spent to access the water, treat it, store it and build the infrastructure to deliver it to you. We are 100% groundwater dependent, which means all of our water comes from one supply. That supply is limited because the City is held to regulatory standards to put water back into the ground gallon for gallon (which is done through the effluent recharge process). To keep water coming to your faucet, you pay not just for clean water, but for the water that leaves your home through the sewer to be detailed later. Buckeye sewer rates are low in comparison to our region.

Water Cost Fact #6:

Recently, the City of Buckeye acquired a water company, Global Water. 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 protect future growth and infrastructure needs. This purchase created 7,000 new customers overnight for the city. As any merger, there have been growing pains, but we have been working on new phone policies and communication outlets, like this weekly article, to make sure we can better communicate the happenings of the city. Please visit www.buckeyeaz.gov/water-resources for the latest news and information.

Water Cost Fact #7:

The average amount of water used by Buckeye residents is about 10,000 gallons a month. Buckeye officials created a water conservation plan in 2009 with a resident usage goal of 7,000 gallons a month. Once you use over 7,000 gallons, you are charged more, so using less water not only saves residents money; it also helps meets the goal of the city to provide water 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 #8:

High usage bills can be a problem for customers and our customer service representatives. It is important to remember we live in the desert, and Buckeye has only one water supply which is our groundwater. This water is the same resource since the dinosaurs roamed the earth, and will be the same water we use for future generations. Conserving this resource is incredibly important, but also a great way to save money each month.
Most customers experience high usage bills because of irrigation or landscaping, leaks, swimming pools, water softeners or even water theft. You can do your own water audit to see where you can conserve at www.wateruseitwisely.com. For questions about your bill, contact us at utilitybilling@buckeyeaz.gov.

Water Cost Fact #9:

The money that comes in from water bills goes into a water enterprise fund. This is a separate self-sufficient account and not part of the general fund (property taxes and sales taxes). The water department runs strictly on water rates collected. The water department does not receive any money from the City general fund. In fact, it pays the City for support services such as finance, human resources, and legal. We do NOT get 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.

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.

Over that year, the Water Department experienced a shortfall of $3 million dollars. 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 just cover the cost it takes to provide water to its customers. These expenditures included new debt service and long overdue equipment repairs and replacement. We also have to plan for future growth that will create new water supply demands.

Water Cost Fact #10:

All of City of Buckeye water comes from groundwater. The groundwater we use today is the same amount of water dinosaurs used, and the same resource future residents will use as well; it is an extremely precious resource. By regulation, every gallon that comes out of the ground needs to go back in. 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 employees.
Here is an example of the costs it takes monthly and annually to maintain the equipment and pay the staff to provide water to your home.

  • Average monthly and annual cost of electricity for 23 wells / sites : Buckeye well sites estimated costs $552,634.64 annual or $46,052.88 per month.
  • Average monthly and annual cost of electricity for the new Global wells /sites: Global well sites estimated annual costs will be $356,428.72/Monthly $29,702.40.
  • Average monthly cost of repairs /maintenance for production (wells, tanks, etc)– $10,000+ per month. But with the results we just received from the treatment vessels, we will be looking at approximately $125,000 over the next four months (earlier if possible) for treatment facility regenerations.
  • Average monthly cost of repairs / maintenance for distribution lines — $12,000 per month. This cost does not include system upgrades to the new system.
  • Average costs of chemicals, permits, lab costs: Estimated annual chemical costs for Buckeye is $85,000 / Global is $60,000. Permits annually: $110,000. Lab fees annually: $50,000.
  • 26 employees not counting administration or billing staff: $1,255,372 in salary, total cost of $1,757,521 including benefits.

Water Cost Fact #11:

The process of delivering water to your home taps 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 your city, town or district. 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 are run by your local water district or division, and the funds collected from your water bill go towards ensuring that the system is maintained properly to keep water running efficiently.

Learn more about your drinking water and how it gets delivered

Water Cost Fact #12:

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 environmental health. Generally, wastewater that leaves our home travels through our sewer systems to a sewage treatment plant. There a variety of treatment methods employed to clean the water. These treatments range from letting the solids settle to the bottom of a tank and filtering the water through sand or other fine particulate matter to adding chemicals to the water or using other biological processes to make the water suitable for the fish and other wildlife who reside in nearby watersheds where treated water eventually ends up.

What is wastewater and why treat it

Water Cost Fact #13:

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 a rising demand as our city grows. 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.

The benefits of rate increases

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