Water Watch NYC

Everything you need to know about water in NYC.

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Another 14% Rate Increase… and That’s Not All!

On Friday (April 3, 2009) the Water Board held its once-yearly meeting to discuss the upcoming year’s rate schedule. Here are the highlights:

  1. The DEP asked for a 14% rate increase, which would take the cost of water and sewer combined to nearly $7 per hundred cubic feet. Remember, this comes after last year’s 14.5% percent increase and 2007’s 11.5% increase, when we were assured by the DEP that 11.5% would be sufficient for the next two years (2008 and 2009). Clearly, that didn’t happen.
  2. Frontage was not discussed at all. You may remember that the Water Board initially told us that this year would be the last year for frontage. Then they extended it for one year only. By not mentioning it this year, they’ve essentially kept the extension in place another year. A source close to the situation tells me that they plan on extending it at least another two years after that.
  3. They finally put a number on their proposal to penalize New Yorkers who do not allow access to their meters. If this plan makes it into next year’s rate schedule, building owners who don’t allow DEP inspectors to read their meters will be charged, depending on the size of the water main, anywhere from $3,198 to $1,598,930 per year. And that is not a typo.
  4. One nice thing that was mentioned at the meeting was that they are attributing a 6% reduction in consumption over the last year to the efforts of conservationists. Of course, they also use this statistic to justify the magnitude of the rate increase.


The Lease Agreement Explained

As a response to a comment by a loyal reader on a previous post, I would like to briefly explain what’s known as “the lease agreement.” This will hopefully help readers understand why it is such a hot-button issue (Jim Tripp resigned over it) and even why the DEP and Water Board charge so much for water.

The reservoirs that serve New York City belong to the city. The city has authorized the DEP and various other bodies (the Water Board, the Municipal Water Authority) to distribute water throughout the city, collect payments for the water used, perform capital improvements on the infrastructure and, most importantly, to borrow money to pay for the capital improvements (what each body does in this scheme is not that important and is, frankly, pretty complicated). In order to do all of this, the DEP (for simplicity’s sake, from now on when I refer to the DEP, I mean the DEP and the other bodies that deal with water) needs to use the reservoirs. The city has allowed the DEP to use the reservoirs, but for a price.

This is where it gets complicated. Instead of charging the DEP a fixed amount to lease the reservoirs, the city charges the DEP a percentage of the amount of money that they (the DEP) borrow for capital improvements.

The outcome of all this is that as time goes on and the DEP needs to sink (no pun intended) more and more money into capital improvements just to maintain a decent quality (and quantity) of service, the amount of money that they are paying to the city for using the reservoirs goes up and up. Therefore, our water rates go up to help pay for the increasing capital improvement and they go up some more to pay for the increasing price of the reservoirs’ lease.

The further injustice of all this is that the city then takes this money and uses it for whatever they want. They get the money from the DEP which gets it from those of us that use water in the city. They get the money from us and the DEP specifically for the water infrastructure. And then they turn around and use it for whatever else they want.

At this point it is just another way for Bloomberg to get money without raising taxes. It seems like a good deal: the city gets money and since our taxes don’t go up, we think we’re not paying for it. But anyone who has seen their new water bills knows that we definitely are paying for it – to the tune of $5.98 per hundred cubic feet of water.


DEP Asks Water Board for 14.5% Water/Sewer Rate Increase

NYC Water Board Chairperson, Jim TrippThe NYC Water Board met on Friday morning to discuss the rate increase for fiscal year 2009, to go into effect July 1, 2008. It seems as though rate increases are the only things they talk about these days. If you think the water and sewer rates are high now, just wait until July.

Consider this: The current DEP water/sewer rate is $5.23 per hundred cubic feet (hcf). The DEP hopes to raise the rate to $5.99 per hcf. That’s an astronomical 14.5% increase. Click here for a pdf graph of historical water and sewer rates to see how this one compares.

It makes me wonder. What happened to the DEP’s claim last year that an 11.5% increase over the next few years would be sufficient? What happened to the DEP’s claims that all they needed to recover their costs and avoid rate hikes was the ability to sell liens and terminate service?

Here’s the real problem. The DEP’s budget has doubled in the last few years and they’re spending all their money on capital improvement the interest of which will only haunt us in the future. They claim that they need to raise their rates because of their rising costs, but instead of examining those costs, the Water Board chooses to discuss only small consulting contacts that the DEP has subverted from their own contract process to the Water Board in order to avoid competitive bidding. The public’s lack of interest and participation only emboldens the DEP to constantly raise rates.

So what can a consumer do? Before the Water Board is allowed to approve this increase they must meet once with the public in each borough to hear their concerns. DO NOT PASS UP THIS OPPORTUNITY. The only thing that prevents the DEP from taking your money is a public outcry. The meetings will be held at the following times in the following locations. Show up and make yourself heard!

  • Bronx: Monday, May 5, 2008 at 6:00 pm. Manhattan College, De La Salle Hall, Room 209, 4513 Manhattan College Parkway, Bronx, NY 10471.
  • Queens: Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 11:00 am. Dept. of Environmental Protection Training Room, 6th Floor, 59-17 Junction Boulevard, Flushing, NY 11373.
  • Staten Island: Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 6:00 pm. College of Staten Island Center for the Arts, Recital Hall, 2800 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island, NY 10314.
  • Manhattan: Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 5:30 pm. St. John’s University – Manhattan, Room 123, 101 Murray Street, New York, NY 10314.
  • Brooklyn: Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 6:00 pm. Brooklyn College Student Center, Alumni Lounge (opposite Whitehead Hall), East 27th Street and Campus Rd., Brooklyn, NY 11210.

For more information, see the new NYC Water Board website.