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Drainage and Wastewater Rates Increasing to Support Essential Services and Infrastructure Investments

In 2017 we worked in partnership with the community, City Council, and the Mayor to develop an update to SPU’s Strategic Business Plan (SBP). The Update describes our plans for delivering essential drinking water, drainage and wastewater, and garbage and recycling services for 2018-2023, and our commitment to our community-centered goals:

  • Improving affordability and accountability
  • Achieving excellence in core service delivery
  • Building equity through strong and inclusive partnerships
  • Enhancing public health and the environment

The SBP Update provided guidance for utility investments, service levels, and a rate path through 2023. The rate paths were determined by evaluating the current cost of operations, finding areas to cut costs, and identifying necessary investments to maintain or improve our systems. Our central purpose was to balance long-term sustainability, excellent service, and regulatory requirements with affordability. Through the SBP Update process, we identified $470 million in cost-cutting measures and an average combined rate increase of 5.2% per year.

Our commitment to affordability means we’re continually looking for additional efficiency and savings for our customers. Since the SBP update, we have worked with Mayor Durkan to further refine our 2018-2023 projections, making additional reductions during the rate period, resulting in a 5.1% average per year.

As part of this rate plan, customers will see an increase in wastewater and drainage rates in January 2019. On average, wastewater bills will increase by 7.5% and drainage bills (charged as fees through the King County property tax system) will increase by 8%. While still high, this is lower, by 0.6% and 1.2%, respectively, than what was originally projected in the SBP. (These numbers are larger than the overall average rate increase of 5.1% because adopted and projected water and solid waste rates over the 5-year plan period are lower.)

What will that look like on customers’ bills?
The table below shows that a typical single-family residence will see an increase of $4.36 on their monthly wastewater charges, and $2.99 on their drainage costs. Multi-family housing residents will likely see much smaller drainage rate impacts.

Single Family Typical Monthly Bill Annual Increase to Monthly Bill
2018 2019 2020 2021
Wastewater1 $57.88 $4.36 $4.59 $4.88
Drainage2 $40.07 $2.99 $3.46 $3.75

1Typical wastewater consumption is 4.3 CCF/month
2For a 5,000 sq. ft. plot

Participants in the City’s Utility Discount Program, which serves about 33,000 customers in the greater Seattle area, will see an average increase of $2.19 on their monthly wastewater charges. Those who live in single family residences will see an average increase of $1.50 in drainage costs.

Increased Rates Support:

  • Meeting regulatory requirements through capital investments.
    SPU’s largest project, the Ship Canal Water Quality Project, will prevent approximately 75 million gallons of polluted water from entering our waterways each year.
  • System Infrastructure
    Expanding pipe and infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement to extend the life of our existing assets.
  • Green Stormwater Infrastructure
    Building multi-benefit green stormwater infrastructure projects in Seattle’s urban villages and urban centers.
  • Multi -Benefit Capital Projects
    Building capital projects like those in South Park that will alleviate flooding in the lower industrial area and help improve water quality in the Duwamish.
  • Move Seattle Work
    Implementing utility projects associated with the Move Seattle’s street projects, including pipe relocations and “opportunity” projects to relocated infrastructure now rather than ripping up streets again in the future.