The Gainesville City Commission approved changes to GRU’s water and wastewater rate structures during a Commission meeting on April 15, 2021. GRU requested these changes to encourage the overall sustainability of our community and its public utility. The approved changes accomplish this by:
Promoting water conservation
Supporting financial stability
Aligning with peer utilities
Simplifying rate structures
GRU’s new rate structures take effect in fiscal year 2022, which begins Oct. 1, 2021.
Why does GRU encourage water conservation?
Water is a limited resource. GRU has a consumptive-use permit that allows us to draw 30 million gallons of groundwater per day from our Murphree wellfield. Our 20-year permit, also known as a CUP, is valid through 2034. While we encourage as many people as possible to enjoy GRU water, we must do it within the parameters of our CUP, so conservation is a critical element of our mission!
Why does GRU use a tiered rate structure for residential water customers?
Our tiered rate structure rewards customers who help conserve resources by using less water. GRU customers have a strong record of water conservation. If fact, despite our growing population, GRU delivers the same amount of water today as we did in the early 1990s! That means our customers use significantly less water per person. GRU residential customers use an average of 59 gallons per person, per day, which is significantly less than the regional average of 89 gallons per person, per day. Tiered rate structures also are a best practice in our industry and a requirement of our CUP.
When setting these tiers, GRU takes special care to ensure that the first tier of water is provided below our cost to serve. This is done intentionally to help provide our customers with water for basic essential purposes, such as drinking, cooking and bathing. The second tier is charged at our cost to serve and typically includes both non-discretionary and discretionary uses. The third tier is largely a discretionary use of water, mostly landscape irrigation, and is therefore set at a higher rate to subsidize the first tier. These tiers work together to help ensure everyone in our community has affordable access to drinking water and to help encourage conservation for our higher users.
What are GRU’s current tiers vs. its new tiers?
Will customers who stay in the first tier see any changes to their water bill?
No. Residential customers who use less than 5kgal (5,000 gallons) per month will see no change in their water rate in FY22. These customers are being rewarded for helping us conserve our natural resources.
How much water does the average GRU customer use per month?
The average GRU customer uses about 5kgal (5,000 gallons) per month and will experience little or no impact when we change the rate structure in FY22. A 5kgal-per-month residential customer would see a 10-cent increase in their monthly water bill.
Who is most likely to be impacted by the new rate structures?
Customers who irrigate frequently are most likely to be affected by the new rate structures. These customers can find seasonal watering tips at gru.com/savewater.
Why did the Tier 2 rate increase 10 cents per kgal?
We adjusted the Tier 2 rate because customers in this tier have been paying less than it costs us to provide them with clean, safe drinking water. The increase should be minimal for most customers. For instance, if you use 5kgal per month this July and the same amount next July, your water bill would only increase 10 cents.
Have you made any changes to the Tier 3 rate structure?
Yes, Tier 3 currently begins at 16kgal (16,000 gallons) per month, but it will begin at 12kgal per month in FY22. This new threshold is more consistent with peer utilities and encourages conservation. Most residential water use above 12kgal is used for landscape irrigation. GRU would like to encourage our customers to conserve this resource for drinking water.
What changes have you made to the reclaimed water rate?
The reclaimed water rate has increased about 24 cents per 1,000 gallons of water. The new rate is $1.24 per 1,000 gallons. This cost is approximately 50 percent of our potable water rate. Reclaimed water is wastewater that has been highly treated to give it a second use, just like a recycled can or bottle. By irrigating with reclaimed water, customers are reusing a valuable resource and preserving groundwater for drinking.
How are non-residential customers affected by the new rate structure?
Non-residential customers will see changes to their wastewater rate. Currently, non-residential customers pay wastewater charges based on 95% of their water use. Starting in FY22, these customers will pay wastewater charges based on 100% of their water use, an industry-standard practice.
You can save money by cutting back on water use and helping to conserve our limited resources. Please visit gru.com/savewater for tips on how to conserve water or schedule an in-home or business survey with a member of GRU’s conservation team by calling (352) 334-3434.
Why did GRU eliminate the Winter Max?
Wastewater is not a metered service, so we base monthly wastewater charges on how much water you use. Currently, GRU establishes monthly wastewater charges during the January and February billing cycles, when water use tends to be lower. This is called your Winter Max. While the Winter Max benefits customers who use more water throughout the year, it doesn’t support our conservation goals or financial needs as costs to provide safe, reliable service continue to rise.
Without Winter Max, how will GRU determine my wastewater bill in FY22?
In FY22, your wastewater charges will be based on how much water you use each month, with a 12kgal cap. This system simplifies charges for our customers, promotes conservation and aligns with the practices of our peer utilities.