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New sewer charge to be calculated in winter months

Staff reports
Melissa sewer charges are determined by averages recorded between December and February.

Melissa residents may want to watch their water usage even more carefully over the few months.  The start of Decembers begins the 90-day period knows as “winter quarter averaging.” This is the annual three-month span when residential sewer rates are calculated by taking the average household water use during this time.

“From December to February residents should be mindful that their water use has a direct effect on their sewer charges for the following year,” Melissa Utilities Customer Relations Manager Chris Thatcher said.

According to Thatcher, most municipal utility departments use some version of winter averaging to determine each home’s monthly wastewater or sewer charges. The rationale is that most of the water that enters the home and is measured through the water meter during this time will likely go through the sewer system because most residents are not watering their yards during this time.

The formula city officials will use is very straightforward. They will record the amount of water used by each home in December, January and February. The average for those three months will then become the monthly charge for sewer service during the ensuing year.

Water discharged into drains is measured by thousand-gallon increments. That cost is set by the water supplier and applied to the total amount.

“At this point, there is no reliable way to accurately measure how much wastewater goes into the various drains, sinks, toilets, showers, or baths in a home,” Thatcher said. “That presents a challenge when trying to determine how much to charge residences for sewer service. To address that, we use the average amount homeowners use during the three-month period.” 

Though some people may see a rise or decline in their wastewater charges, many will see no changes as all.  Some things that could drive the cost up for individual households include unneeded outdoor irrigation, leaky faucets, runny toilets, washing less than full loads in the washing machine or dishwasher, washing cars at home, or any other unnecessary winter water use. 

Residents are advised that once the three-month calculation period ends, they will be stuck with the set rate for the next 12 months.