Policymakers moved closer Tuesday to recommending water rate increases for Oklahoma City residents and for surrounding communities that buy the city’s drinking water.
The Water Utilities Trust agreed on the broad outlines of a three-year plan to phase in water bill increases and raise the fee to hook up a new home to city water.
A similar plan reviewed last month showed an average household would pay about $60 per month for water and sewer service after three years, a 17 percent increase over the current average $51.60.
Increases under the latest plan would vary only slightly from those figures, said utilities director Marsha Slaughter.
Rate increases are intended to promote conservation and pay for an upgraded water distribution system, including a second pipeline to bring water from southeast Oklahoma.
Significant provisions include:
•A pricing strategy that produces 5 percent more revenue each year, with an overall reduction of 4.3 percent in water use after five years.
•A three-year plan to increase the charge to hook up a new home — known as the “impact fee” — from $100 to $1,000, in $300 increments.
•A strategy to make sure surrounding communities pay equitable rates for water bought from Oklahoma City and that they share in system improvement costs.
Water managers expect to spend about $2.1 billion over the next 10 years to finance system improvements, including the new Atoka pipeline to ship water from reservoirs in southeast Oklahoma.
About a third of the money is earmarked for pipeline construction.
The city owns rights to water from the southeast part of the state and from the North Canadian River, but water managers see little hope the river will recover.
The metro area is expected to rely more than ever in coming decades on southeast Oklahoma water.
The southeast mostly has avoided effects of the drought plaguing western Oklahoma.
How increase would affect average user
The proposal is to set water rates in “blocks,” with the first block of 10,000 gallons intended to approximate average household water consumption.
The average Oklahoma City residential customer uses about 7,000 gallons per month.
Average households would pay rates slightly higher than they pay now for each 1,000 gallons used. The rate in excess of 10,000 gallons would be even higher to encourage conservation. The city has about 180,000 household water customers.
Water bills include base charges for water and sewer and additional charges in increments of 1,000 gallons for drinking water consumed and for wastewater discharged to treatment plants.
Trustees agreed to have consultants, working with the city attorney’s office, draw up a proposed ordinance for increasing rates.
Once approved by the Water Utilities Trust, the proposal would go to the city council for consideration. New rates could take effect later this year.
By the numbers
Water use in OKC
Water managers say system improvements planned over the next decade amount to a “lifetime investment” by Oklahoma City in dependable drinking water supplies.
•Current average household water use: 7,000 gallons per month.
•Residential users comprise 89 percent of the customer base.
•Anticipated cumulative rate increase after five years: about 30 percent.
•Conservation target after five years: 4.3 percent, or about 300 gallons per month per customer.