Some Panhandle residents think they pay more for water

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By Jenny Hartley

Carrie Miller said saving water is a waste, since she gets charged the same rate whether she uses 2,000 gallons of water or half that.

She and her husband cut their water usage to about 1,000 gallons a month at the height of the drought last year, but ended up paying nearly the same amount for half as much water. She wants to know why.

Rich Costa suspects that Indian Land residents are paying more for their water than other residents of the county or the city of Lancaster. He thinks Indian Land residents are helping pay for all the infrastructure being installed in the Panhandle.

Miller, Costa and other Indian Land residents have expressed concerns about how they’re being billed for water use.

So, what are the water rates charged by Lancaster County Water and Sewer District in the Panhandle, compared to other parts of the county?

Exactly the same.

Although LCWSD is installing many new water and sewer lines in the Panhandle, that doesn’t mean the utility is making Indian Land residents pay more. Residents who live in unincorporated areas of the county pay the same water rates, no matter whether they live in Indian Land, Elgin or Charlesboro.

“It’s just easier for everyone to pay the same,” said LCWSD Manager Mark Knight.

Everyone pays a minimum base charge of $30.67 per month for water use, no matter how much water they use.

Knight clarified the matter by answering a few questions on the subject:

- What is the cost for 3,000 gallons of water? $30.67. Every LCWSD residential customer pays at least this amount, for 0 up to 3,999 gallons of water consumed, because the system reads in the thousands. If a customer uses 4,000 or more gallons, they pay $3.42 per additional 1,000 gallons. If they use more than 10,000 gallons, they pay $2.81 per additional 1,000 gallons.

- What is the cost for sewer service from LCWSD? A minimum base cost of $9.83, and $3.75 per every 1,000 gallons.

- What is the average water usage for Lancaster County residents each month? 4,000 to 5,000 gallons, according to Knight.

- What does 4,000 gallons cost for water and sewer? $34.09 for water; $24.89 for sewer, which totals $59.98.

- What about 5,000 gallons? $37.51 for water; $28.58 for sewer, which totals $66.09.

- Why does LCWSD charge the base amount, even if a customer does not use water at all for a month? Knight said the district needs to charge the $30.67 to pay for operation costs and debt service on bonds for water and sewer improvements.

- Then what is the incentive for households to tighten up on water use? Knight said residents should restrict water use as much as possible since Lancaster County is under mandatory water restrictions due to a drought that started last year. The incentive to save is that everyone on the system will have enough water for drinking and other uses.

“We’re hoping that customers would be more sensitive that it’s a valuable resource, especially during a drought,” Knight said.

n What does the city of Lancaster charge for water and sewer? The city buys its water wholesale from LCWSD. The base rate, for 3,000 gallons, is $19 inside the city limits and $24 for city customers who live outside the city limits.

The city’s base sewer rate is $9.50 for 3,000 gallons, and $3.60 per 1,000 gallons over that for inside-city customers. The outside-city sewer rate is $11.85 for 3,000 gallons and $5.40 per 1,000 gallons over that.

So, a customer who lives inside the city limits would pay $39.30 for water and sewer service for 3,000 gallons, and $49.80 for 4,500 gallons, said Grace Hilton of the city of Lancaster’s public works department.

Lancaster County Water and Sewer District customers with questions regarding their water and sewer bills should call Donna West at  416-5253.


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