Water Connection Charges
“While water connection charges have been around for years, only a handful of communities are using them to encourage water-efficient new developments. Structuring water connection charges to drive water efficiency is a smart and timely strategy.”
– Amelia Nuding, Senior Water Resources Analyst
Water Connection Charges Can Be a Great Conservation Tool – But Most Utilities Are Missing Out on This Opportunity
One of the greatest challenges facing communities today is supporting a growing population with limited water resources. Water conservation is widely acknowledged as a critical part of the solution, but efforts are often heavily focused on existing customers, and ignore the new customers at the crux of the challenge. In Western Resources Advocates’ recent report, conducted in partnership with the Environmental Finance Center of the University of North Carolina and Ceres, we found that 38% of the communities we surveyed in the west were scaling their single family residential connection charges in proportion to predicted water demand. A much smaller fraction of these communities is actively encouraging water efficiency through their connection charges. Therefore, most utilities are missing the opportunity to reduce the water footprint of new developments. And by not doing this, they may be overcharging some customers, and undercharging others. Multi-factor connection charges can be designed to create equity, and can also be used as a tool to encourage water efficiency.
How Water Connection Charges Work
Most utilities have a uniform water connection charge associated with the water meter size that they charge a new development to connect to their system. A multi-factor connection charge, however, uses projected annual water demand as the basis for the charge. For example, a single family home with four bathrooms and large lawn could be charged more than a home with two bathrooms and a small lawn. Or, an office building with relatively little water use would pay less than a car wash, even if they require the same water meter size. Or, a low water-use landscape would be assessed a smaller connection charge than a big grass-covered landscape.
Multi-factor connection charges that incentivize less water use are not well known or used yet in many communities. This means that water connection charges represent a huge opportunity for water conservation.
Western Resource Advocates Showcasing Huge Potential Benefits of Water Connection Charges for Water Conservation
Only a handful of communities are using multi-factor water connection charges to increase water efficiency in their area today. Western Resource Advocates has done case studies in Aurora, Fountain, and Westminster CO to demonstrate to water utilities how these connection charges can be designed to promote water efficiency in new developments. We are doing presentations throughout the region to increase awareness of this tool. Western Resource Advocates also researched and produced a report that looks at how widely adopted multi-factor water connection charges are, and shares best practices for developing effective programs. We did this report in partnership with Ceres and University of North Carolina’s Environmental Finance Center.
New water solutions are increasingly sought as the West’s population increase is stretching limited water supplies. Western Resource Advocates encourages water connection charges as an innovative way to promote water savings as communities grow.
Links to Report and Case Studies
- “Water Connection Charges: A Tool for Encouraging Water-Efficient Growth” Full Report
- Case Study on Aurora, Colorado
- Case Study on Fountain, Colorado
- Case Study on Orange Water & Sewer Authority, North Carolina
- Case Study on Westminster, Colorado
For a table indicating which Utah, Nevada, and Colorado water providers who were surveyed were using uniform or multi-factor connection fees, click here
Land Use Planning For Water Efficiency
Water Conservation & Efficiency
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by Amelia Nuding