About Your Water Rates
Reliable Infrastructure = Reliable Service: It’s That Simple!
Every 4 years, the City of Flagstaff evaluates its long-term financial plan for its water, sewer, reclaimed water, and stormwater utility funds. As part of such an evaluation, Willdan Financial Services conducted a cost-of-service analysis in 2015 to determine rates that would cover the operation, maintenance and replacement of essential infrastructure — treatment plants, pipelines, reservoirs, wells, and stormwater facilities — while maintaining our commitment to affordability. The study revealed the need for higher rates to keep up with inflation and higher capital improvement costs — a 4.4% annual increase for water, a 7.0% increase for sewer, and a 6% increase for stormwater — over the next 5 years.
This increase became effective on July 1. For 2016, it translates to $3.09 per month for the average water customer — roughly the cost of a small latte. This means that the average single-family residential customer will pay $30.30 for water and $17.58 for sewer monthly. These rates are still among the lowest in the nation.
Our infrastructure consists of about 19,832 water service connections, 435 miles of potable water main, 12 major reservoirs, 2 wastewater treatment plants, 276 miles of gravity-flow sanitary sewer, and 26 miles of reclaimed water main and stormwater facilities.
The True Cost of Aging Infrastructure
One of the major factors affecting rates is the need to rehabilitate and replace the aging infrastructure in our 117-year-old system. For example, we need $3.4 million per year to replace aging water mains that have reached their useful life (70 years). About 26.5 miles (6%) of our waterline is 70–100 years old and has reached the end of its useful life.
If we don’t replace these waterlines, breaks will increase, as they have over the past few years. This causes service disruptions that may cost even more money and inconvenience the community, and it may even prevent redevelopment or infill development in some areas.
Failing infrastructure also costs local businesses. For example, when a 60-year-old pipeline broke and sent water and mud gushing onto streets and homes, it forced the Summit Center to cancel 60 surgeries. Large water pipeline breaks under pavement can cause sinkholes and/or destroy buildings — which can result in multi-million dollar claims against the City.
Capital Improvement Projects on the Horizon
The 2016 rate increases the funding available for investments in pipes, treatment plants, pumps, reservoirs, and wells. Over the next 10 years, we plan to…
- Install 5 new wells ($15M) and pursue water-acquisition projects
- Replace 2.5 miles of waterline ($3.2M) and 1 mile of sewer line ($1.5M) annually
- Replace utility lines in the downtown, Southside, Brannen, Coconino Estates, Bow and Arrow, Lower Greenlaw, and Sunnyside neighborhoods
- Replace manholes ($200K) and meters ($400K) annuallyReplace the Switzer Canyon transmission line ($5.3M)
- Expand the sedimentation basins at the Lake Mary Water Treatment Plant ($3.2M)
- Increase capacity and improve the process for wastewater treatment solids handling ($9M)
- Implement projects that were identified in a 2012 energy audit of our water production and wastewater facilities, which identified several energy-conservation opportunities that will save several hundred thousand dollars in annual operating costs
- Frequently asked questions
- 2016 rate tables
- Comparisons of rates with other communities
- Long-term financial plan and rate and fee study prepared by Willdan Financial Services
- 2015 water sewer, reclaimed water, and stormwater rate study
- Previous rate study public presentations to the Water Commission
Left to right: Water main replacement, plant upgrades, new city wells, pump house energy efficiency improvements