“Outrageous” Water Rates Not So Outrageous

I’ve had about enough of the myth that the water rates in La Vergne are outrageous and the highest in Rutherford County. I read somewhere that a Realtor is recommending people NOT move to La Vergne because the water rates are so high. If that is really the truth that a Realtor is telling that, I believe the City should sue them because they are not telling the truth about our water rates being the highest in the county.

Here is the residential rate schedule for the water in La Vergne:

Gallons per month Water Rate Inside City
First 2,000 $13.73 (minimum rate)
More than 2,000 $3.54 per 1,000 gallons

Now, figuring water rates can be tricky since all utilities have different methods of figuring the minimum rate and some have a customer fee meaning, even if you use zero water, there is a fee simply for being a customer. And some utilities such as Murfreesboro base their rates on cubic feet of water. One cubic foot is 7.48 gallons. So that can get confusing as well. However, I present to you the water rates in surrounding areas.  **All rates quoted here are the regular residential rate. Industrial and Commercial rates vary wildly. I include the links to water rates I have found so you can look at this yourself.**

Smyrna is significantly cheaper than ours. For their 2011-2012 budget year their (proposed?!) rate is $8.85 for the first 2,000 gallons and $2.75 per thousand gallons for the next 3,000 gallons, and $3.15 per thousand gallons for the next 5,000 gallons and $3.50 per thousand gallons for the next 10,000 gallons. Here is a link to their rate schedule, you have to scroll down quite a bit to get to it, as this includes the rate schedule for everything including gas and sewer.

Now, Murfreesboro’s is just flat out confusing. Your fees depend on your meter size and it is all measured by cubic foot. I think a 1 inch meter is about standard, (but I’m not sure, I think 5/8″ meters are also common for residential customers) but here is their rates:

Meter size      Charge      Allowance, cubic feet
5/8”              $ 8.22                        100
1”                   $ 19.18                      400

So if you have a 5/8″ meter, you’re paying $8.22 as a minimum charge for the first 748 gallons of water, but if you have a 1″ meter, you pay $19.18 for the first 2992 gallons. Which is .0064 cents per gallon, as compared to La Vergne’s .oo65 cents per gallon. The difference is minute. Their rates over the allowed amount are $2.74 per thousand cubic feet. That’s .0036 cents per gallon compared to La Vergne’s .00354 cents per gallon overage. So while their upfront rate is cheaper, our overage is cheaper.

“But, Ivy!” you might be thinking, “That still makes us the highest water rates in the county! Oh noes! Let’s move elsewhere!” Not really. Because the majority of unincorporated and even parts of corporated Rutherford County use Consolidated Utility District. What do they charge?

Water Usage per thousand gallons for residential meters up to 1 Inch:

Minimum Bill (0 – 1,000 gals.) $13.78
1,000 – 5,000 $  6.39 (per thousand gallons)
5,000 – 10,000 $  6.89 (per thousand gallons)
10,000 – 20,000 $  7.39 (per thousand gallons)
20,000+ $  7.89 (per thousand gallons)

That’s right, kids. They pay 5 cents more for HALF the amount of water, and their overage is significantly more expensive as well. And while CUD has a very nice treatment facility, it is just north of Murfreesboro, which means depending on where you live, your water is piped for many, many, MANY miles. I have often marveled at what it takes to run that distribution system. Which, I expect, is part of the reason the water is very expensive there.

See, no matter what people might think, the State is not going to let local utility districts rip off their consumers and charge “outrageous” rates unless there’s a reason behind it. Nobody is making a fortune off their water rates and nobody “got a big raise” out of this. The state, in addition to not letting utilities rip their consumers off, will not allow them to run in the red and rip themselves off, either. Water treatment is not cheap. In addition to the chemicals and equipment, it also takes qualified operators to be able to run the plant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And there is a worldwide shortage of qualified water treatment operators, they are not cheap to hire and keep trained, as they constantly require continuing education.

I gathered links of water rates for a couple of other surrounding cities/counties like Wilson County who has a minimum of $27.49 for the first 2,000 gallons, Metro Nashville, Dickson County, Shelbyville, and Maury County who charges $5.50 per thousand and just got dinged by the state on total trihalomethanes.

So, before you start the “the water bills are outrageous” battle cry, consider the truth of the matter, that we are somewhere in the middle of the pack as far as our water rates. Sewer rates are a similar story. Areas that have their own wastewater plants are usually cheaper, areas that have to ship theirs off like ours, are higher. Most of the links I have provided also include sewer rates and you can do your own math.


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