Why don’t communities get the same wholesale water rate from Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA)?
There are many issues that impact rates from community to community making direct comparisons difficult. The rates charged to local residents are set by individual communities and include costs to maintain local water mains, pumps and storage tanks. Because water distribution systems do not work by gravity, the cost to transport water is impacted by the distance it must travel. Increased energy costs are incurred the farther and higher the drinking water must be pumped. Therefore, the higher costs to service communities farther out and at higher elevations are born by that community. This approach is consistent with billing standards used by other communities and developed by the American Water Works Association. Wholesale water rates charged by GLWA vary by community based on usage of water, distance from the water treatment plant, and elevation change from the plant. The basis for allocating more cost to communities that use more water is that GLWA must build greater production capacity to meet the communities’ maximum daily demand. Because of this, costs are higher for communities with higher peak demand.
Why does my water and sewer bill come from my community but the water comes from GLWA and the sewage treatment plant is from Oakland County Water Resources Commission (OCWRC)?
GLWA is a wholesale provider and Novi is the final provider of water and wastewater service. Your community’s service includes maintaining the pipes and infrastructure between your house and GLWA’s system as well as reading meters and performing billing. Likewise Oakland County Water Resources Commission is responsible for the North Huron Rouge Valley treatment plant. If you have a problem with service to your home, your community will work with you to solve the problem.
Why does Novi charge fees on top of what GLWA charges for water and sewer service?
GLWA provides “wholesale” service to all customers of the system. GLWA delivers water to several points in Novi’s system and then the Novi transports it to your house. Novi builds, maintains and operates its own infrastructure of water mains, pumps, and storage tanks. This is also true of sewers – your community transports the sewage through its sewers to a major OCWRC interceptor (sewer) that takes the sewage to the North Huron Rouge Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant. Novi is also responsible for the billing and collection functions. Your bills include the costs from GLWA, OCWRC and Novi’s costs to complete the delivery of services.
How are water and wastewater (sewer) rates set?
Novi sets water and sewer rates for its residents and businesses. These rates cover the cost that Novi incurs in delivering water and wastewater service in addition to the charges they pay GLWA and OCWRC for services provided. GLWA and OCWRC rates with communities are set through an established process each year. Rate setting is a forward-looking process based on estimated future use and actual past usage from the communities.
Why can’t rates be better managed to reduce fluctuations?
Just like yearly household expenditures, water and sewage rates can vary from year to year. Overall costs are impacted by use of the system, required capital improvement projects, and operation and maintenance costs. On the water side, seasonal usage of water has a dramatic impact on the overall cost of service. Increases or decreases in maximum day or peak hour usage due to changes in summer seasonal usage can contribute to significantly higher peak demand and rates.
Why do rates increase?
Infrastructure maintenance affects the rate of water and sewer charged to communities served by GLWA.
Because the water and wastewater treatment systems are aging, they must be maintained or replaced on a regular basis to ensure reliable service. The primary driver of rates increase is the amount of new and rehabilitation projects completed under the Great Lakes Water Authority’s (GLWA) Capital Improvement Program. Frequently, new projects must also be undertaken to maintain compliance with increasingly stringent regulatory requirements. Operation & Maintenance (O&M) of the water and wastewater systems also impacts rates. Just like other systems that must be operated and maintained, GLWA’s and OCWRC’s systems are impacted by inflation and the cost of utilities, chemicals and property insurance. As new facilities are brought on line, overall expenses increase as well.
Why do residents have to pay sewer charges on sprinkler water for their lawns?
The water meter at your home or business is used to determine charges for sanitary sewers with the assumption that most of the water used in your home or business eventually flows into the sanitary sewer (clothes, dish washing, showers, toilets, etc.). Both water and sewer bills are based on the water that flows through your water meter. Your water bill is based on the number of gallons of water used. The entities providing water are not-for-profit entities, and the total costs need to be covered in order for service to continue. If separate meters were allowed, the cost per unit of sewer would have to be increased to cover the costs of the service. The few communities that allow for separate metering have water and sewer rates that are as much as 200% higher than the communities that do not allow separate meters.
Can I have a separate meter for my outdoor water use?
Residents occasionally ask about having a dual meter system so that they are not billed for water that does not get collected and treated as sanitary sewage, such as water used in an underground irrigation system or a swimming pool. One meter would measure interior water consumption that eventually flows to the sewer; the other meter would record exterior water use that potentially does not enter the City’s sanitary sewage system.
Under the City’s current single meter program, the water meter at a customer’s home or business is used to determine charges for sanitary sewer use with the assumption that the vast majority of the water used eventually flows into the sanitary sewer (i.e., water for clothes/dish washing, showers, toilets, etc.). Therefore, both water and sewer charges are based on the volume of water that flows through a single water meter.
As a customer community for the Great Lakes Water Authority, the City of Novi is billed for both drinking water use and sanitary sewage collection based on water consumption only. The City in turn uses the same billing concept for its water and sewer customers. This is because total costs need to be covered, and if separate meters were allowed the cost per unit of sewer would have to be increased to cover the overall sanitary system's costs. Communities that allow separate metering are spreading costs over a smaller customer base and therefore have sewer rates that are higher than communities that do not allow dual meters.
How can residents save money on their water/wastewater bill?
Conserving and using water wisely is the best way to save money on your water and wastewater bills. Steps you can take to reduce your water usage include:
- Water your lawn wisely – it only needs 0.5 to 1.5 inches of water per week (MSU Extension Turf Tips for Homeowners). Over- watering lawns results in shallow-rooted plants that are less tolerant of heat and drought, and more prone to disease.
- Water your lawn during off-peak hours such as during the early morning or late afternoon (11:00pm to 5:00am is best).
- Check for leaks and drips. Toilets are the most common source of leaks and can frequently be fixed with a new flapper. Dripping faucets can usually be repaired with the rubber O-ring or washer inside the valve.
- Replace your old toilet, the largest water user inside your home. If your home was built before 1992, chances are you would benefit from a newer, more efficient toilet.
- Use rainwater to water your plants. Direct downspouts toward your plants and green areas or collect water with rain barrels for use later.
- Make your lawn cheaper and easier to maintain by mowing high (three inches is recommended). Longer grass has deeper roots and requires less water.
Search the Internet for effective ways to conserve water. The water wiser site from the American Water Works Association is a great place to start with links to other sites.
My house has been empty. Why do I still receive charges on my water bill?
Certain services must be provided regardless of the amount of water used that contribute to monthly fixed costs such as meter reading, customer accounting, and maintenance of water mains. Therefore, a home that is not actively using water but has an active connection will still incur minimum charges. Houses charged a flat rate sewer charge will also continue to be billed the flat rate.
Who fixes my water main when it breaks?
Water mains are owned by different entities. Typically, GLWA owns the larger transmission mains that deliver water to each community. Novi owns the water mains that transport the water from the transmission main to your home. Whoever owns and operates the water main fixes it. If the broken water main is in a local road, Novi will fix it since they own it. If a large transmission main that connects to your community’s system needs work, GLWA will perform the work since GLWA owns it.
What is Maximum Day Demand and Peak Hour Demand?
Maximum Day Demand represents the maximum volume of water used during a 24 hour period within a given year. Peak Hour Demand is the term used to identify maximum volume of water used within the City of Novi over a one-hour period during a given year. These two volume totals are used to calculate the water demand rates for the City of Novi. Each year these maximum demands are used to estimate the volume of water needed to supply water to the community. The rate for this water is then determined based on these calculations.
GLWA offers a lower rate to Communities who shift their peak hour usage into the non-peak hours of 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM. In an effort to reduce the City of Novi’s water rates, a local ordinance has been approved that requires the community to irrigate their lawn and landscaping during these non-peak hours on alternate days. The goal of this ordinance is to reduce the Maximum Day and the Peak Hour water demands of our water system. A violation of this ordinance is subject to a fines of up to $500 per incident.