SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The city of Sioux Falls is expected to raise its water and sewer rates in steps over the next several years for an overall increase of 19% from 2024 through 2027. How much Sioux Falls residents will pay compared to some other cities isn’t a strict apples-to-apples comparison.

Water is measured in CCF or cubic feet units or by the gallon. A CCF unit equals 748 gallons.

Sioux Falls officials say the average residential household uses about 5,200 gallons a month. That is about seven CCF units. The current charge for water is $3.75 per CCF unit up to seven units. The monthly charge is $26.25 for 5,200 gallons of water used, but a monthly fee for a water meter needs to be added in.

For comparison, a 5/8″ inch water meter common in households is used. Sioux Falls charges $3.29 a month for a 5/8″ meter. The total monthly water cost for 5,200 gallons of water is about $29.54 for 2023. The overall charge would increase by $1.73 per month to a total of $31.27 in 2024, according to the city.

The city of Fargo, North Dakota, charges $4.90 per 1,000 gallons for 5,200 gallons. The charge would be $25.48 per month. The 5/8″ meter rate is $9.05 a month. The total monthly charge is $34.53 which is higher than the current rate in Sioux Falls and would be higher than the increased rate in 2024.

City of Sioux Falls graphic on proposed water rate increases.

Sioux Falls uses comparisons to Wichita, Kansas, in various studies and research. The 2022 U.S. Census estimated population of Wichita is 392,000.

Wichita uses the average amount of water used per household during the winter months as the basis for water rates, said Andrew Van Tassell, a communications official in the city’s public works. It’s called the average winter consumption (AWC) and rates are based on how much of the AWC the customers uses.

Van Tassell said the average residential customer uses about 6,000 gallons per month.

Van Tassell said the city’s rate system is geared toward conservation of water. The price per 1,000 gallons increases as more gallons are used.

The residential rate per 1,000 gallons is $2.93 through 110% of the AWC which means a customer can use up to 10% of its AWC.

If a residential customer uses more than 110%, the rate changes to $10.24 per 1,000 gallons but only for the amount used above 110%, Van Tassell said. The $10.24 per 1,000 gallons rate applies to consumption of 111% to 310% of the AWC.

City material lists that the minimum monthly AWC is 6,000 gallons so 5,200 gallons should fit into the $2.93 per 1,000 gallons rate. At 5,200 gallons, the monthly water fee in Wichita is about $15.23.

Just like other cities, Wichita charges a monthly fee for a meter. The charge for a 5/8″ meter is $18.43 per month. So the total charge for a 5/8″ meter and 5,200 gallons a month is $33.66.

The city will automatically contact a residential user if water usage spikes during a billing period, Van Tassell said. A spike could indicate a leak or similar problem, he said. The city wants to make sure a leak is corrected so bills aren’t so high and it also wants to remind customers of conserving water, he said.

Lincoln, Nebraska, uses units for water rates. One cubic foot is a unit that equals 748 gallons. Seven units is about 5,200 gallons. The unit rate for 1 to 8 units of water is $1.748 in 2023. Seven units is $12.23 a month. Users also pay $8.54 a month for a 5/8″ water meter. The rates are found on a brochure from the city. Based on the monthly rate and meter charge the total monthly bill would be $20.77.

The city lists the fee for 11 units of water or 8,228 gallons with a 3/4 inch meter at $34.34 a month.

The city of Sioux Falls would not reach $34 ($34.19) a month until 2026 but it’s for 5,200 gallons which is less water than the $34.34 for 8,228 gallons charged today in Lincoln.

In its May 23 to the city council, Sioux Falls public works officials compared the 2022 water rates and the proposed 2024 Sioux Falls proposed rate with 16 cities in the state. The comparison was based on 6,000 gallons of water.

City of Sioux Falls graphic. Sioux Falls 2022 water rates and proposed rates compared to other cities in the state.

The 2024 rate was lower than all but two, Vermillion and Sturgis.

But comparing the Sioux Falls rates to rates in cities that have less population doesn’t explain how rates can vary between cities.

Amy Leon, the finance director for the city of Yankton, said the 2022 rate of $65.51 for 5,200 gallons used by the city on May 23 was likely accurate but “I don’t know if its comparing apples to apples.”

Yankton’s population is about 15,000 so there are fewer customers to spread the costs of the water system in the city, Leon said. The city replaced an original 1920s water plant which was revamped in 1971 in 2017, she said. The cost of that project is reflected in the $65.51, Leon said.

The city has a minimum monthly meter charge of $27.51 for water and a $6.30 per 1,000 gallons of water.

Like Sioux Falls, Yankton will evaluate its water rates, Leon said. The city may increase its rates each year in order to stay current with operational costs, she said.

The city of Vermillion’s 2022 rates are lower than the 2024 rates proposed by Sioux Falls, according to the city’s May 23 presentation. The city listed the monthly charge for 6,000 gallons at $33.67.

Vermillion charges $2.35 per 100 cubic feet of water. Seven CCF units is about 5,200 gallons. Eight units is just under 6,000 gallons.

It charges $ 15.52 for a half inch to 3/4″ meter.