A typical household will pay an additional $1.70 per month for water in 2022 if a proposed rate increase is adopted by the Saint Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS) as it looks to replace its aging McCarron’s Lake treatment plant.

The SPRWS board will hold a public hearing on its 2022 water rates and fees at 5 p.m. Tuesday, September 14, at the water utility office, 1900 Rice St. New general manager Patrick Shea unveiled the budget in July, after succeeding longtime general manager Steve Schneider earlier this year.

The annual cost of water for a typical Saint Paul household would increase from $313.04 to $333.44 next year if the rate change is approved. A typical household consumes 68 cubic feet or 50,864 gallons of water each year.

Replacing McCarron’s has an estimated cost of $160 million and is expected to be the most expensive water treatment project in state history. The current plant would operate until the new one is completed next to it. The old plant would then be deactivated and demolished.

The project requires an increase in bonding or borrowing for the new facility. Before he left the utility, Schneider outlined plans for a gradual water rate increase to pay for the work. By 2024, the average water customer could pay $392 a year.

If all goes as planned, work on the new plant would start in 2022 and continue through 2025. Construction of the original plant began in 1910 and was completed by 1925.

“Anytime you have a facility approaching 100 years in age, you need to be thinking about resiliency and reliability,” said Shea in a recent water utility newsletter. “These improvements will increase the reliability of the facility for coming generations.”

 

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“Anytime you have a facility approaching 100 years in age, you need to be thinking about resiliency and reliability,” said Shea in a recent water utility newsletter. “These improvements will increase the reliability of the facility for coming generations.”

The SPRWS’s proposed 2022 budget includes $192.1 million in financing and spending. That is an increase of $68.5 million over this year’s budget. The greatest increase is for issuance of debt, which is jumping from $51 million in 2021 to $116 million in 2022.

The water service’s base fee, water main surcharge and right-of-way recovery fee will not increase in 2022. The latter fee is assessed to Saint Paul customers only, and is paid to the city for having water utilities located in the public right of way.

The water utility pumps an average of almost 39 million gallons of water per day. The total water consumption base for 2022 is estimated at 1.65 billion cubic feet. The utility saw a slight decrease in consumption in 2020 and earlier in 2021 due to above-average rainfall. However, this year’s figures could change due to the summer drought.

Another factor in water use citywide was the COVID-19 pandemic. Many large customers, especially colleges and universities, used much less water than usual when classes were conducted remotely.

The water utility serves Saint Paul, Mendota, Mendota Heights, Lauderdale, Falcon Heights, Maplewood and West Saint Paul. Limited services are provided to Lilydale, Sunfish Lake and South Saint Paul. Arden Hills, Roseville, Little Canada and the University of Minnesota own their own water distribution and billing services, but purchase water wholesale from the SPRWS.

The Saint Paul City Council votes on water and other city utility rates as part of its budget process.

— Jane McClure

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