BILLINGS – A gallon of water in Billings costs residents one-third of a penny. But this year, water services will have nearly $25 million in capital improvement projects, and those services will require taxpayer money.
The Billings City Council voted Monday to approve a rate and fee hike that will generate approximately $1.1 million in higher water revenues and $875,000 more in wastewater revenues during the next fiscal year. Those new rates begin July 1.
City officials said inflation, an aging system, infrastructure needs and increasing regulations are all factors for the increase.
As far as pipes in the city used for water and wastewater, Billings is considered "better" than most cities. The national average for replacement of pipes is 200 years. Los Angeles is on a whopping 300-year replacement program. Billings stands at 180 years.
The average home in Billings uses 9,724 gallons of water, meaning most residents remain in tier 1 of charged rate. During the summer months, only 49 percent of residents stay within tier 1.
The Council voted 10 to 1 in favor. The action will increase the average water rate by 12 cents, and wastewater rates will jump another 17 cents. Councilmember Larry Brewster was the lone dissenting vote.
The overall increase to the average bill of $76.44 will be 31 cents. The 54-cent franchise fee will be dropped by the city, helping lower the impact of the increase.
The current water rates in Billings, even with the adjustment, are less than Butte, Bozeman, Helena, and Missoula, but more than Great Falls and Kalispell.
Funds will help build a reservoir facility on the West End.