Frequently Asked Questions
Following is a list of frequently asked questions and answers for City of Laramie water or wastewater customers.
Who decides to increase the water rates? Do I have any input?
The City Council decides to increase water rates based on input from residents, customers, City staff, and its consultants and advisors. Water and sewer rates are based on providing enough revenue to cover operation and maintenance costs, pay annual debt service, and fund future capital improvements. You can provide input to the Council either in writing or by attending Council meetings, or by commenting on this website blog. In addition, prior to the decision on rate increases, the City hosted three meetings to obtain stakeholder input. Stakeholder presentations are provided on this website, under “Reports and Links.”
Who do I contact with questions about my water or sewer bill?
Please call the City’s utility billing office at 307-721-5222 or 307-721-5234. Staff will be able to assist you with your questions or concerns. Also, please refer to the Utility Billing website.
Last year our water rates went up; can I expect another increase this year?
The City will need to implement annual increases in order keep pace with inflation, and to pay for costly capital improvements to our water and wastewater infrastructure in the future.
What is the Capital Improvement Program?
The City of Laramie considered the recommendations contained in numerous engineering and planning studies prepared over the last several years to determine the capital improvements needed. The 10-year capital improvement program consists of the following components:
|Total (over 10-years)
Individual project costs can be found on this website under “Reports and Links” in the Financial Planning Memo and Tables - May 5, 2009, Tables 2-5 and 3-5.
How many miles of pipe will be replaced, and what percentage of the system is this?
The capital improvement plan includes replacement of:
- Approximately 40 miles of water pipe, or 15 percent of the City’s 260 mile water distribution system
- Approximately 21 miles of sewer pipe, or 13 percent of the City’s 160 mile sewer collection system.
How many pipeline breaks does the City have now and how many is normal?
In 2008, the City repaired 140 emergency water pipeline breaks. This compares to regional and national averages reported by the American Water Works Association of between 50 and 80 breaks for similar utilities.
Why does Monolith Ranch cost money to maintain and operate?
The City acquired Monolith Ranch in the early 1980's to secure and increase the City's water supply. The City’s water rights study prepared by Fassett Consulting, LLC (Fassett, 2004) and the Laramie Water Management Plan prepared by WWC Engineering (WWC, 2006) noted that “Beginning many years ago, City officials made decisions and investments for the long-term security of a reliable water supply, most notably, the purchase of land and water rights associated with the Monolith Ranch.” In order to retain the water rights, the City must use the water for agricultural purposes, which on balance, costs more to operate than the resulting revenues from ranching. The City has formed a ranch advisory committee (RAC) to review ranch operations and propose efficiencies while maintaining water rights for future transfer to municipal use.
Why are we increasing rates to pay for renewal and replacement of waterlines, when the City already has a waterline replacement program charge of $4.24 per month?
The current renewal and replacement charge of $4.24 per month generates approximately $365,000 annually for the City’s waterline replacement program, which is insufficient to fund $43,325,000 needed for water distribution projects. The average cost of water line replacement is $140-$240 per foot; the current replacement charge could account for only about one-half mile of replacement pipe per year.
Is the City operating efficiently and are these goals appropriate?
In addition to sustainable long-term financial performance, Red Oak evaluated the performance of each utility relative to national averages published by the American Water Works Association (AWWA), including employee efficiency and utility renewal and replacement. To achieve the employee efficiency benchmark median, the City will need to add four water employees and seven wastewater employees over the 10-year study period. The new employees will perform system maintenance work; such as fire hydrant repair, manhole sealing, valve maintenance and sewer televising/cleaning that will improve the efficiency of the infrastructure and prolong the life of the systems. In addition, the proposed capital plan achieves the utility renewal and replacement benchmark median over the next 10 years. These costs have been included in this 10-year financial plan, and can be found on this website under “Reports and Links” in the Financial Planning Memo and Tables - May 5, 2009, Tables 2-9 and 3-9.
Why does the City have irrigation rates that are higher than for other residential and commercial customers? Don’t we want to Laramie to be green?
The City has moved towards cost-of-service based water rates. The primary driver for cost differentials between customer classes is the peak-demand characteristics. This means water that is used during peak demand periods (i.e., summer months) costs more to supply, and therefore is charged more per gallon. Thus the water rates are based on cost of service, not on preferences for landscaping or other policy objectives.
What happens if growth slows and the improvements are not needed?
A majority of capital improvements are required to maintain service to existing customers. If growth slows, the capital plan and future rate increases will still be necessary. A smaller portion of growth-related capital improvements are based on an assumed growth rate of one-half percent per year, or approximately 40 new accounts per year.
How much will my water and wastewater bill increase?
Water and wastewater bills will increase for every customer; however, the extent of those increases will vary depending on how you use water. For the median residential customer (4,000 gallons per month water and 3,000 gallons per month sewer) average bills will increase from $43.60 per month in 2009 to $50.97 in 2010.
Why is the City charging residential customers increasing-block rates?
To maintain eligibility for State grant funding, the City is required to implement an alternative rate structure that encourages water conservation (e.g., tiered water rates). The new residential increasing-block rates meet this requirement