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Fiscal Year 2010 Water Rate Proposal: Questions and Answers

What is the proposed rate increase for Fiscal Year 2010?
For fiscal year 2010, the New York City Water Board is proposing a water and sewer rate increase of 14%. For the typical single family home, this means that average annual water and sewer costs would increase from $799 to $911, an increase of $28 per quarter, or approximately $0.30 per day. This increase is consistent with what was projected at this time last year.

What do water rates pay for?
Water rates fund the delivery of clean drinking water and the removal of waste and storm water, including the construction, operation, and maintenance of all water infrastructure, from in-city sewers, waste water treatment plants, and water mains to dams and water quality projects in the upstate watersheds. New York City has one of the largest water and sewer systems in the world, which each day delivers high quality drinking water to more than 8 million City residents. Water rates not only fund the day-to-day operation of this system but ensure that it will continue to work for decades to come.

Much of New York City’s existing water and sewer infrastructure has been in continuous operation for nearly a century. Under the current Administration, we have made the greatest investments in the city’s water and wastewater systems in the last 60 years. As a result, our drinking water is among the highest quality in the world, and our harbor water is now at its best in over 100 years. Continuing this program of investment in this system is necessary to repair and replace our aging infrastructure, and to ensure that any new system components we build are also able to provide reliable water and sewer service for generations of New Yorkers to come.

Why is a 14% rate increase necessary?
DEP recognizes that both nationally and in New York City, many residents are experiencing financial pressure, and that any increase is significant for our customers. We have worked hard to moderate the need for rate increases, both by reducing agency expenses whenever possible, and implementing more effective enforcement tools to help us collect revenue.

However, it is important to remember that, like most water utilities around the country, DEP’s budget is funded by the money it collects through water and sewer rates, and the Fiscal Year 2010 rate proposal reflects the cost of providing water and sewer services to all New Yorkers. Continuing a program of investment in our water and sewer system will ensure that the health of the City’s waterways continues to improve and that DEP continues to provide clean, safe water to New Yorkers for decades to come.

This year’s increase is primarily the result of non-discretionary operating and maintenance costs, debt service on our capital program, as well as a significant decline in consumption, which may be the result of the current economic downturn.

Approximately two-thirds of DEP’s operating budget is non-discretionary, and covers critical system costs like fuel and energy, chemicals for our treatment facilities, and personnel costs.

Additionally, as DEP begins or continues several major projects over the next few years, including the ongoing construction of Water Tunnel No. 3, repairs to the Delaware Aqueduct, and major upgrades and repairs to treatment plants, sewers and other water infrastructure, budgetary needs will continue to be great. In recent years, Federal and State mandates have accounted for approximately 75% of our capital program, and these enormous costs are now being reflected in the debt service we pay on the bonds used to finance this work.

Even with this rate increase, New York City’s rates are still consistent with national average and New Yorkers will still pay less for their water and sewer services than the residents of most other American cities.

What are you doing to moderate the rate increase?
The Fiscal Year 2010 rate proposal reflects only those costs essential in providing New Yorkers with high-quality drinking water now and into the future. However, DEP has worked hard to moderate the need for rate increases, both by reducing agency expenses whenever possible, and implementing more effective enforcement tools, like the Payment Incentive Program, service terminations, and a stand-alone lien sale, to help us collect revenue. In addition, over the next three years, DEP will be installing automated meter reading (AMR) technology citywide—you will receive a postcard when installation contractors are in your neighborhood. In other cities that have implemented AMR in conjunction with effective enforcement tools, collection rates have increased to 98% or 99%. A similar increase in New York City would raise revenues and help mitigate future rate increases.

Is there anything I can do to lower my water bill?
DEP charges water customers based on consumption, which means that varied usage and leaks can drastically affect quarterly bills. Catching leaks before they become problematic can save you hundreds of dollars a year in water and sewer bills.

If you are a homeowner, check your plumbing fixtures to ensure they are working properly and not wasting water. For a free, comprehensive leak audit, call (718) 326-9426.

Are there any financial assistance programs available to water and sewer customers?
Seniors, those affected by the nationwide predatory lending, mortgage and foreclosure crisis, and others having difficulty paying their bills may be eligible for DEP’s Safety Net program, which can help you work with a range of assistance programs citywide, including budgetary counseling, emergency grant/loan and home improvement services.

To learn more about the Safety Net Referral Program, please call our customer call center at (718) 595-7000. Literature is also available at our customer service outreach events or as a downloadable PDF below.

Note: Only those customers facing collections actions, such as service termination or lien sale are eligible for the Safety Net program at this time.

Where can I find the current rate schedule?
At the New York City Water Board website:
Current Rate Schedule

More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

59-17 Junction Boulevard
19th Floor
Flushing, NY 11373

(718) 595-6600