Additional Water Rates Information

Water Rates Frequently Asked Questions

Tolt Water Treatment Facility
The Tolt Water Treatment Facility uses filtration and ozonation to provide high quality drinking water to about 450,000 people in King County. (Enlarge facility image)

Do residential and commercial water rates increase?

Yes. In 2017, Seattle City Council adopted residential and commercial water rate increases for 2018, 2019, and 2020.

How much did my bill increase?

The average increase for residential and commercial customers in 2020 is 3.7%. Actual bill increases will vary by customer.

Why did my bill increase?

Much of the increase is because of continued infrastructure and capital needs of the utility, including water main rehabilitation and utility work related to transportation projects such as Move Seattle.

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.

Cedar Water Treatment Facility
The Cedar Water Treatment Facility uses ozonation and ultraviolet light (UV) disinfection to provide high quality drinking water to about 850,000 people in King County. (Enlarge treatment facility image)

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 3/4" 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 (50.3%), as well as work to minimize environmental impacts of the water system (5.6%). They also pay for customer service (11.6%) and security (1.7%) costs, the administrative costs of running the water system (12.9%), and various taxes imposed on the water system (17.9%).

Water rates pay for the following costs

Water operations staff
Water operations staff are at work 24 hours a day to ensure a dependable, safe drinking water supply. (Enlarge office image)

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.

Water quality laboratory
Seattle's water quality laboratory conducts sampling and testing of the water supply every day of the year. (Enlarge lab image)

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 rates encourage 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. View more information.

Beacon Hill Reservoir
The Beacon Hill Reservoir is one of eight water reservoirs covered during the last 15 years to protect the water supply – providing the added benefit of new park land. (Enlarge reservoir image)

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.

 

Related links

Payment Discount Program
Residential Water Rates
Commercial Water Rates