NYC 2019 Water Rates/Water Rate Study: How Water Rates Impact NYC Waterways
Updated: Sep 29, 2020
In New York City, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) budget is funded by revenue it collects through water and sewer rates. Every year the NYC Water Board sets the water and sewer rates for New York City and holds a series of public hearings to receive public comment on the new rates. See 2019 hearing info at the bottom of this blog post.
Background on NYC Water Rates:
Since 2015, SWIM steering committee members have attended the water board hearings and/or sent in written testimony to the Water Board calling on DEP to conduct a study on how we can equitably restructure the sewer charge to account for a property's stormwater runoff and its impact on the sewer system. See our 2019 comment letter here. Scroll down for more info on the current water rate structure.
In 2018, SWIM member, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), published an issue brief on the many ways in which cities across the nation have restructured their water and sewer rates to pay for the infrastructure improvements needed to reduce the volume of polluted stormwater runoff that discharges into our waterways each year. SWIM member, Bronx River Alliance shared this brief with the Water Board last year during their public testimony at the Bronx public hearing and Waterboard members found the document very helpful.
Facts About This Year's Rates and the Long Awaited Rate Restructuring Study:
SWIM member, Hudson Riverkeeper, is calling on the NYC Water Board to consider restructuring the current wastewater charge on our water bills to help cover the costs of improving our antiquated water and sewer infrastructure. In a recent action alert they stated: "Despite grave needs to improve the New York City’s sewer infrastructure, the Water Board has proposed a rate increase of 2.31%, much less than increases in other cities. In the face of the largest sewer overflow problem in the country, New York City’s rate is 15.5% less than the average of the 30 largest American cities. Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. have structured their water rates to separate water consumption costs from stormwater treatment costs. New York City currently has no separate stormwater charge. This means big box stores with large roofs and parking lots pay nothing for their polluted stormwater runoff, sticking the rest of us with the bill. New York can do better."
Here is a link to an entry on the Riverkeeper blog about upcoming hearings.
The DEP Water and Sewer Rate Restructuring Study will finally get underway at the end of this year and will take three years to complete. We recently wrote about the study here to inform the public about the purpose of the study and to raise awareness of the need for public engagement at the beginning of the study and throughout the three year process. The importance of stakeholder engagement in this study cannot be emphasized enough. It is vital that the public weigh in at every phase of the study so that when the necessary changes take place, people will understand why and mechanisms will be in place to protect low to moderate income ratepayers and programs are in place to incentivize property owners to implement sustainable stormwater management solutions on site.
NRDC and Riverkeeper have teamed up to develop a rate restructure dashboard, that the City can use in their upcoming study, to analyze an array of equitable scenarios for restructuring the City's current sewer charge to account for a property's stormwater runoff. We will share the dashboard here as soon as it is finalized.
Currently, New York City’s billing structure for municipal water and sewer costs is based on two charges: Water and Sewer
1. Water Charge: for potable water
2. Sewer Charge: for wastewater and stormwater
The sewer charge is calculated at 159% of the water charge:
Water Charge x 1.59 = Sewer Charge.
This calculation does not account for how much stormwater runoff the property generates and how much the runoff impacts the sewer systems. For instance, a giant asphalt parking lot or a "big box" store generates a significant volume of stormwater runoff, yet may use very little potable water and pay the same rate as the single family house that generates very little runoff. Why should the property that generates far more stormwater runoff pay the same rate as a single family property that impacts the system far less?
Here is an in-depth fact sheet produced by SWIM member, NYC Soil and Water Conservation District, on the City's water rates.
Make your voice heard by attending a NYC Water Board hearing and testifying in favor of equitable water rates! If you can't attend a hearing, please send a public comment letter to the Water Board by June 13th! See info below for where to send the letter.
NYC Water Board Hearing Dates/Times/Location for 2019:
Thursday, May 30, 2019, at 7:00pm
Hostos Community College
Savoy Building, 2nd Floor
120 East 149th Street
Bronx, NY 10451
Tuesday, June 4, 2019, at 2:00pm
22 Reade Street
New York, NY 10007
Wednesday, June 5, 2019, at 7:00pm
John F. Kennedy, Jr. School (P721Q)
57-12 94th Street
Elmhurst, NY 11373
Monday, June 10, 2019, at 7:00pm
St. Francis College
180 Remsen Street, Founders Hall
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tuesday, June 11, 2019, at 7:00pm
Joan and Alan Bernikow Jewish Community Center
1466 Manor Road
Staten Island, NY 10314
Public Comment Letters to the Water Board can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5 p.m. June 13th. You can use SWIM's comment letter here as a template for your letters. CC us at email@example.com so we can post your letters in our comment testimonies library.