Frequently Asked Questions
Reliable Infrastructure = Reliable Service: It's That Simple!
How will the rate increase affect my water bill? The new rates roughly translate into a monthly increase of $3.09 for the average single-family residential customer, who will now pay $30.30 per month for water and $17.58 per month for sewer. These rates are still among the lowest in the nation.
Why did water rates need to be raised? In a nutshell, utility revenues are not keeping pace with increasing costs for operations and for replacing aging infrastructure (treatment plants, pipelines, reservoirs, wells, and stormwater facilities). Aging infrastructure is buried underground, out of sight — and, usually, out of mind. It is often only when failures occur that we are reminded of how much we take for granted our access to safe drinking water. We need an additional $5M/yr to provide safe, reliable drinking water and clean wastewater for our residents.
How do you plan to spend Utility revenues over the next 10 years? We have prioritized projects to address critical needs at a cost of $12M/yr.
What would happen if we didn't raise the rates? We would be forced to reduce our investment in capital improvements, which would lead to more frequent infrastructure failures, water service interruptions, water loss, and street damage. Our operating costs would then increase, reducing the funds now slated for infrastructure investments.
How did you determine whether the increase is fair and equitable? We followed the recommendations of a cost of service and rate design study conducted in 2015. Learn more.
What are the major costs of operating the water system? More than half of our annual operating costs are for the water supply and distribution system. Capital improvements are the next largest component, followed by debt service costs. Energy and chemicals used for water treatment comprise a significant fixed cost. [view pie chart] What have you done to lower operating costs? The City has implemented many measures to increase efficiency and reduce costs! We eliminated 10 full-time positions in recent years — even though the number of water connections increased by 15% and the population increased by 17%. We also conducted leak-detection surveys to identify and reduce water losses in our distribution system. In addition, we installed automated meter readers to reduce the time required to read meters. Finally, we're transitioning to more energy-efficient equipment. This will yield significant savings (thousands of dollars per month) because electricity is one of our single biggest expenses, with the water / sewer utility the largest user of electricity in the city.
What can I do to lower my bill? You can conserve water! Since outdoor watering accounts for 40–60% of residential use, you can reduce your consumption significantly by improving your irrigation system and/or reducing water-needy landscaping. Learn more.
How are Flagstaff's water and wastewater services funded? Both services are funded completely by customer rates, with no support from the General Fund. In fact, we pay an administrative charge to the General Fund for functions such as accounting, procurement, human resources, and legal services.
What is the long-term outlook for rates? Unfortunately, rates will steadily increase. As our water and sewer infrastructure systems reach the end of their asset life, they must be replaced. Public spending on water systems has steadily increased over the years while federal participation has decreased. This makes it very likely that the price of water and sewer will continue to climb even higher in the future.
When was the last rate increase? The last rate increase was implemented January 1, 2011, and impacted single-family residential customers by approximately $3.12 a month.
How do Flagstaff's rates compare to those of neighboring cities? Even with the rate increase, our average single-family residential customer pays less than the median range of neighboring communities. You can find comparisons with other towns and cities in Arizona in the 2015 rate study report or online.
Who can I contact with questions about the new rates? Please contact Customer Service department at (928) 213-2231 or via email.