Water Rates Look Set to Rise for Watertown Customers

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Watertown residents will be seeing their water rates rise, and sewer rates go up even more sharply, a consultant told the Town Council on Tuesday.

The combined rate for water and sewer in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget would rise $13.42 per quarter for the average customer, a difference of 15 cents a day, said consultant Dave Fox of Raftelis. That is based on a 2.5 percent increase for water rates and 4.9 percent for sewer rates. The total increase would be 4 percent.

The rate increase is the most Watertown customers have seen for a number of years. In Fiscal Year 2019 (the current rate year) the combined increase was 2.5 percent, and two years ago there was no rate increase.

The rates will rise despite a decrease in the amount of water being used in town.

“Consumption is down significantly over the year, which is happening statewide and nationwide,” Fox said. “That is a good thing for conservation, unfortunately as consumption goes down, the rate revenue does, too.”

Watertown runs the water and sewer budgets as self-contained enterprise funds separate from the town’s general budget. That means the expenses must be covered by revenues collected for that purpose.

The projected expenses for the water budget is $7.895 million, but the amount raised by the current water rates would leave a deficit of $170,877, Fox said. Likewise, a shortfall of $473,885 is anticipated with the current sewer rates with the projected expense budget of $10.945 million.

Councilor Tony Palomba asked if there was any way to cut the expenses as a way to control rate increases. Town Auditor Tom Tracy said most of the expenses are fixed costs, such as debt services on loans, personnel and the biggest one is MWRA assessment charges. Those make up 46 percent of the water budget and 59 percent of the sewer budget.

Fox said residents could reduce their water bills by taking steps to cut water use.

“Higher rates does not necessarily mean higher bills if you are conserving,” Fox said.

He noted that the water coming out of the hose to water plants and gardens is the same water people drink. The Department of Public Works sells rain barrels at a discount to residents so they can collect water to use on their gardens. Other ways to cut use is to make sure to only do the laundry or dishwasher when they have full loads.

Fox added that many New Englanders are not as conditioned to worry about water consumption because the area has enough drinking water.

“We are not in the situation of the southwest or California where they are running out of water,” Fox said.

People in some places, such as Europe, take more extreme measures, Fox said, such as turning off the shower while they lather up and then turn it on to rinse off.

The rates will be approved when the Town Council adopts the Fiscal Year 2020 budget. The public hearing for the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, June 4 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.

The water and sewer enterprise funds expenses include:


Personnel $996,419

MWRA $3,899,172

Other Enterprise Expense $390,100

Capital $236,000

Transfers/Debt $2,873,587


Personnel $547,413

MWRA $6,735,163

Other Enterprise Expense $481,000

Capital $1,055,000

Transfers/Debt $2,627,048

8 thoughts on “Water Rates Look Set to Rise for Watertown Customers

  1. We are being punished for conservation – lovely. If this was a business, the business would find ways to cut costs. One way would be to go back to semi-annual billing – fewer bills means fewer checks to process which means staff could be cut. Another would be to offer a discount to home owners that pay electronically so that less staff is needed to open envelops and process checks. I am sure that insiders can find other ways to cut. But this is not a business and it is easier to simply raise rates. @Tony Palomba – you did not press hard enough and I am sad to think that none of the other councilors even tried.

    • Couldnt have said that any better. If we are expected to conserve for the benefit of everyone then so should the stewards of OUR tax dollars. It’s not as if they didn’t know revenue would go down. Why didnt they plan for costs to go down as well. We did by investing in low flow appliances etc. What could Watertown do? @Tony Palomba Nothing? Really? Here’s a thought…treat our tax dollars the way we have to conserve water and its a win win.

    • I completely agree. This just seems stupid. It should be a routine part of the job for town employees to find cost cutting measures. Your suggestions should certainly be taken into consideration by the town. People have made the effort to conserve for environmental reasons, economical reasons, or both. There are many people who can’t afford higher bills and with rising costs for everything these days, they should not be burdened with a higher rate. There are also many who have chosen to conserve for the sake of the environment and should not be penalized for doing so. It is disappointing that other members of the council did not push for alternatives to be considered.

  2. Can’t cover fixed costs? Then do what is done in the real world, the Private Sector , CUT COSTS!!! By any and all means including Layoffs! Start at the top. Enough of this bloated taxpayer funded pig. We deserve lower rates for conserving not higher!

  3. Another thing that should be taken into consideration is that water consumption in Watertown will soon see a drastic increase due to the extensive amount of development occurring. Since much of the costs, as has been stated, are fixed costs, those costs may be covered by the increased water consumption. It would be helpful to know the forecast of what the increase in water consumption will be due to new development.

  4. Rhetorical question no. 1: If we use more water, will the rate go down?
    Rhetorical question no. 2: Has the rate EVER gone down?

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