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Answer Man: Will water bill increase hit us twice?

February 14, 2019 GMT

Help drop the other shoe, Answerguy, I can’t hold my breath much longer! The first shoe dropped when I received information from Rochester Public Utilities that the board approved a water rate increase of 6 percent.

My bill indicates that the “waste water charge” is some multiple of the water rate, so is the waste water charge increasing like some secret under-the-covers increase (dropping the other shoe); or are they adjusting the percentage to keep the waste water charge as it is? Every little bit hurts.


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While I don’t have access to the bill you have on hand, a scouring of my personal bill makes me wonder whether there’s confusion based on the word “rate.”


The tricky word can be used to address the quantity of water used over a period of time, as well as charge for a defined measure. Such words are what makes the English language a wonderful and sometimes confusing thing.

A portion of your wastewater bill is indeed based on your water rate, meaning the amount of water used, not the amount paid.

To determine the monthly charge, the city documents the amount of water used by a household during the first three months of the year. That amount is then used to determine a monthly average, which will appear on bills throughout the year. The practice means the wastewater charge won’t artificially expand when it comes time to water the lawn or wash the car.

With this practice, the amount charged per water unit on your bill won’t increase the wastewater fee. Such an increase would require Rochester City Council approval, since the wastewater and stormwater fees are city charges, rather than Rochester Public Utility fees.

Hopefully this helps clarify any confusion, while also encouraging a bit of water conservation in the coming months.

With approximately half of the year’s first quarter remaining, it’s a good time to think about taking steps to reduce water usage, whether it’s installing low-flow shower heads or running the washing machine only when it’s full.

As you now know, the efforts in February and March will do more than help offset that 6 percent increase. It will also help reduce the wastewater fee throughout the year.