Water Rates Frequently Asked Questions
Did residential and commercial water rates go up?
Yes. The City Council adopted residential, commercial, and wholesale water rates for 2012 through 2014 on November 21, 2011.
How much did my bill increase?
As of January 1, 2013, the average increase is 7.1% for residential and 10.3% for commercial. Commercial rate changes will vary by customer. For detailed rate schedules, see the Water Rates links at the bottom of this page.
Why did my bill increase?
Over 60% of the increase is due to 1) a decline in demand for water and a fall off in revenues from new water tap installations, resulting from the poor economy, and 2) an increase that insures that SPU meets its financial policies, which provide stability for SPU’s Water Fund. A further driver of the rate increase is continued capital needs, which include Morse Lake pump plant, continuation of the reservoir covering program and distribution system improvements.
Are wholesale water customer rates going up?
Rates for wholesale customers will change in accordance with wholesale contracts, which define cost of service methodologies that determine how much the water system can charge for wholesale service.
What is the Base Service Charge?
This is a fixed monthly fee, determined by the size of the water meter installed at your property. This fee helps more equitably distribute service costs that are not related to the volume of water used, such as bill production, customer service, water service inspections, and meter reading, maintenance and replacement. Most single family residences are served by ¾" meters, which are the smallest and least expensive available.
What do our water rates and charges pay for?
Water rates pay for the costs of storing, treating, and piping water from the Tolt and Cedar Watersheds, as well as work to minimize environmental impacts of the water system. They also pay for customer service and security costs, the administrative costs of running the water system, and various taxes imposed on the water system.
Why are rates for residential and commercial customers outside Seattle’s City limits higher than rates inside City limits?
A small portion of the Department's direct service area lies outside City limits and higher rates are charged there to reflect higher costs of serving this area.
Reasons for these higher costs include:
- Development outside the City is less dense and a greater percentage of the water delivered outside the City is pumped. Both factors cause higher capital and operating costs (longer water mains, more pumping) per unit of water delivered.
- Field crews, meter readers, inspectors, and other employees, as well as vehicles and equipment, must travel farther to work on parts of the system that serve outside City customers.
For Shoreline customers only: Why is there a different set of rates for Shoreline customers?
In 1999, Shoreline began charging Seattle Public Utilities a franchise fee on water service SPU provides to Shoreline residents. This fee increases SPU’s costs of serving Shoreline customers, and SPU is passing this cost on directly to them as a separate item on their bills. All of the revenues from this fee are paid to the City of Shoreline. Neither Seattle nor any water customer outside of Shoreline receives a benefit from this fee.
For Lake Forest Park (LFP) customers only: Why is there a different set of rates for LFP customers?
Since 1963 Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has been providing water service to about 400 retail customers that are now located within the incorporated boundaries of the City of Lake Forest Park. In 2009, the City of Lake Forest Park signed a franchise agreement from SPU which formalized the terms under which SPU operates in the City’s rights-of-way and included a requirement that SPU collect a franchise fee from its residents through the water utility bills and pay it to the City of Lake Forest Park. Neither Seattle nor any water customer outside of Lake Forest Park receives a benefit from this fee. The new water rates for Lake Forest Park residential and commercial customers took effect November 1, 2009.
Why are water rates higher in the summer than in the winter? Is this a penalty for summer water use?
While Seattle has plenty of water in the winter, our water system is limited by its ability to supply water during the summer when demand is at its highest and rainfall is at its lowest. At that time, we depend on storage in our mountain reservoirs to meet demand while leaving enough water in the rivers for fish. The higher summer rate encourages customers to use water prudently at a time when demand is high and rainfall is low.
Is there assistance for low-income customers?
Qualified low-income/elderly/disabled customers receive a 50 percent discount on their water bill. See Payment Assistance for more information.
What can I do to reduce my water consumption?
For most households, the vast majority of water is used indoors. You can get the biggest water savings in your home by installing efficient fixtures and fixing leaks. The choices you make in your yard can also save you money on your water bill.
Visit the Saving Water Partnership or call (206) 684-SAVE (7283) for advice on saving water, and find out if you are eligible for rebates on water efficient appliances and improvements to irrigation systems.
What number do I call if I still have questions?
You may call SPU Customer Service at (206) 684-3000.