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Information on Sewer Rates

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Sewer Rates Table

The Sewer System
The City of Santa Cruz wastewater treatment facility treats more than 10 million gallons of wastewater each day. Approximately one-half of that wastewater is generated within the City. The other half is from the Santa Cruz Sanitation District (Live Oak, Capitola and Aptos) which pays for about half of the cost to operate the wastewater treatment facility.

Wastewater is water used indoors including all water that drains from sinks, showers, toilets, washing machines, and dishwashers in homes and businesses. The wastewater generated in the City is transported to the wastewater treatment facility through the City's extensive sewer collection system. That system includes 17 pump stations and a piping system that is located under almost every street in the City. The City maintains over 200 miles of sewer pipe ranging from 6 to 54 inches in diameter. To maintain the system, City crews clean miles of the pipeline each year. On an annual basis, the City typically replaces 2500 linear feet of old, deteriorated pipe or pipe that is not of adequate size to carry the sewage flow.

The City of Santa Cruz wastewater treatment facility has been located between Neary Lagoon and Bay Street since 1928. In 1998 the City added secondary treatment facilities to the wastewater treatment plant. This additional treatment process allows the City to meet the most stringent Federal and State requirements for wastewater treatment and provides excellent protection to the waters of the Monterey Bay. This current facility will serve the City and County for many decades into the future.

Basis for Sewer Rates
The existing and proposed rates meet the State and Federal requirements that user charges reflect cost of services. To meet this requirement each customer classification category is assigned a Suspended Solids (SS) and Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) concentration. When the sewer rate is calculated for a customer classification category, the dirtier the wastewater (i.e. the higher the BOD and SS), the higher the rate.

Residential Rates
Residential rates are flat fees. They do not change from month to month within the user classification category as water consumption changes. Although a flat rate is used, the rate is based on the average sewage volume generated for that user classification. For a single-family home the rate is based on the average single-family home water use of approximately 900 cubic feet per month or 220 gallons per day. The single-family rate assumes that 25% of the water used does not go to the sewer but is used for irrigation. For a multi-family residence the rate is based on the average multi-family household water use of approximately 600 cubic feet per month or 150 gallons per day. The multi-family rate assumes that 15% of the water used does not go to the sewer but is used for irrigation.

Sewer Low Water Use Billing
Low water use versus regular water use is calculated for all customers on May 1 each year, based on the average of the lowest four out of five months of winter water use from December–April. This is the time when outdoor water use is normally at its lowest, and approximates how much water from each home flows to the sewer system. If the total water use for the four months is 9 CCF or less, which is equal to an average monthly use of 2.25 CCF or less, you will qualify for the lower sewer rate for the upcoming year.

New customers will be considered for low water use after they have been in the system for billings from December through April.

Commercial Rates
All commercial users are charged a flat monthly fee plus a quantity charge per 100 cubic feet (CCF) of water used. The CCF charge is calculated to reflect the amount of water used that does not go to the sewer system -- for example, water used for irrigation. For businesses, we assume that 20% of the water used does not drain to the sewer system.
Definition of Business Users

The sewer rates have the following business classifications:

  • High Strength
  • Medium Strength
  • Low Strength
  • Hotel/Motel

The strength is based on the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Suspended Solids (SS) in the sewage. Higher BOD and SS require more treatment and therefore have higher cost.

The High Strength user category is defined as commercial businesses that discharge high strength wastewater, including restaurants, large full service supermarkets, and food processors (i.e., bakery, deli, and butcher) . Medium Strength users are defined as commercial businesses that discharge medium strength wastewater, including delis, bakeries, coffee and sandwich shops, bars, auto repair facilities with wash racks, grocery stores, medical offices, photographers, and laundry facilities. The Low Strength users category is defined as commercial businesses including offices, retail stores and schools.

These definitions are not intended be all-inclusive. The Director of Public Works or his/her representative will have discretion to place businesses into the appropriate classification, based on the BOD and SS of their wastewater discharge.

For more information please contact:
Steve Wolfman
Senior Civil Engineer