I’m a little confused and very concerned. I again went diligently into our local water department office to pay my bill and that little voice in my head said “wow, that’s sure a lot of money for water, sewer, and trash”. So, a weekend research project was born and I decided to find out exactly how and why our current rate of $2.89 per 1,000 gallons stacked up.

First I thought I should just poke around and see what other rates around the country were. What I found absolutely stunned me. The rates in other places were so much cheaper that I thought I was looking at something wrong. No, Boca-Raton FL really is charging its customers $0.71 for the same amount of water.

I started going through a number of different theories.

Perhaps water is scarcer in Emporia KS than it is in other parts of the country. I checked Las Vegas NV and Tucson AZ thinking that since they were both in a desert that they would have higher rates. Hrm, $1.16 and $2.06 respectively. Lack of water obviously doesn’t explain it.

I know Emporia claims to have some of the best tasting water in the country so Off I went again. In 2008 Emporia was listed as a participant in the “Best of the Best” Water Taste Test hosted by the American Water Works Association. The winner that year was Louisville KY. I looked up Louisville and saw that their rates were at $2.47 so it’s getting closer. The difference is that they are still winning taste tests for their water and I can’t find any mention of Emporia.

Perhaps our money is being spent to install the bank teller-style windows in the water department payment counter. Perhaps if the prices weren’t so outrageous such remodeling wouldn’t be necessary. I then remembered seeing some construction going on at the water processing plant. I had thought that odd since supposedly with the reduction at Tyson, the demand on the city’s water system had reduced. I checked the website and…obviously none of our funds are being spent to keep it up-to-date and inform the public what is going on.

During my research I came across a number of other small items. First, I think the rapid response shutoff and reconnect fees are bordering on a scam. I had a young child in the NICU in Topeka for about 2 weeks and while I was away my water bill came due. I came home early one morning to take a shower and get a few hours sleep only to find my water off. Many of the other municipalities just added the unpaid bills onto the tax evaluation of the property which I thought was a very good idea. If Emporia did that then I would have gotten my shower and, when my family emergency was over, I could have gone in and brought my bill up to date with little or no penalties. I’m afraid the water department makes too much money charging people to turn a valve so the practice probably won’t stop until we have another stretch of weather like we did at the beginning of August and the lack of water contributes to someone’s death and the lawsuits start flying.

Lastly I decided to contact the City of Emporia to get an email address for the water department. I called 341-4380 and followed the menus to the water department…and got the after-hours message…at noon. Obviously not much of our money spent there.

I did find one municipality charging more than Emporia Kansas for their water. New York City. Of course they use about 100 times what our water plant can produce in a day, they don’t have a monthly charge for a meter, and there’s no limit to how much water they use at that price but they do pay $3.94 per 1,000 gallons.

So, if anyone can explain to me why we Emporians are being charged so much for our water I’d sure appreciate it. I have exhausted my list of possible excuses and none of them….hold water.

City $ per 1k gal. up to (gal) Meter/Mo Source
Boca-Raton FL $0.71 25,000 http://www.ci.boca-raton.fl.us/Util/billing/reswaterrates.shtm
San Antonio TX $0.92 5,985 $6.91 http://www.saws.org/service/rates/resident.shtml
Jacksonville FL $0.93 6,000 $11.08 http://www.jea.com/about/pub/downloads/WandSTariff-effective10-01-2009.pdf
Las Vegas NV $1.16 5,000 $10.06 http://www.lvvwd.com/custserv/billing_rates_thresholds.html
Salt Lake City UT $1.18 673,200 $7.44 http://www.slcgov.com/Utilities/PDF%20Files/Rates%20Web%20page%20update%202009.pdf
Dallas TX $1.54 4,000 $4.00 http://www.dallascityhall.com/dwu/billing_rates_monthly.html
Memphis TN $1.75 None $0.00 http://www.mlgw.com/images/ScheduleW1_08.pdf
Milwaukee WI $1.79 74,800 $12.14 http://www.city.milwaukee.gov/ImageLibrary/Groups/WaterWorks/files/Ratesquarterlybilling_090901.pdf
Tucson AZ $2.06 11,220 $5.87 http://www.ci.tucson.az.us/water/rates.htm
Denver CO $2.11 11,000 $4.41 http://www.denverwater.org/BillingRates/RatesCharges/2010Rates/InsideCity/
San Jose CA $2.74 10,472 $9.00 http://www.sjmuniwater.com/customerservice/rates.asp
Emporia KS $2.89 10,000 $7.53 http://www.emporia-kansas.gov/city-clerks-office/water-service/water-rates.html
New York NY $3.94 none $0.00 http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycwaterboard/html/rate_schedule/index.shtml
Louisville KY $2.47 3,000 $6.45 http://www.louisvilleky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/7CB7118B-6EC1-448D-8D17-78FDDB75FF42/0/2010RateSchedule.pdf
Emporia wins “Best of the Best” in 08 http://www.awwa.org/publications/MainStreamArticle.cfm?itemnumber=36618