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Water & Sewer

Water Utility Statistical Benchmarks

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin calculates benchmark data for about 600 water utilities and sanitary districts, based on figures within their annual reports. The purpose of these benchmarks is to establish a maximum, minimum and weighted average for expense, revenue and pumping statistics. Individual utilities can then compare their numbers to the statewide statistics.

Water utilities and sanitary districts are grouped as class AB, C or D, by the number of customers served. Class AB utilities have 4,000 or more customers, Class D utilities have less than 1,000 customers and Class C utilities have between 1,000 and 4,000 customers. Benchmarks by class are established so utilities can compare with others of similar size.
Items to Note:
  • Benchmark reports can be exported to Microsoft Excel.
  • Most annual reports are filed in March and April. During this time frame adding new annual report data will cause the benchmarks to fluctuate daily.
  • These benchmarks may contain errors for individual companies. While the averages are relatively unaffected by these errors, the minimum and maximum values can be greatly distorted.
Statewide Benchmark: These benchmarks are grouped by utility class and water source (surface, ground or purchased).

Individual Water Utility Benchmarks: The individual utility benchmarks appear in the far right-hand column of the report.

Benchmarks Definition

Revenues – Metered revenues in Account 461, Metered Sales to General Customers, and Account 464, Other Sales to Public Authorities, were used. The two benchmarks are revenues per customer and revenues per thousand gallons of water sold, and each is computed for residential, commercial, industrial, and public authority classifications. One additional revenues benchmark is total operating revenues per full-time equivalent employee.

Expenses – For Classes AB and C utilities, operation and maintenance expenses are segregated by functional group and also by whether the source of supply is their own supply from ground water or surface water (Lake Winnebago utilities are separate) or purchased from another utility. Benchmarks for Account 408, Taxes, are computed separately for water utilities and sanitary districts because sanitary districts do not pay the local and school property tax equivalent. The four benchmarks are expenses relative to average plant investment, total operating revenues, gallons of water sold, and number of customers. The number of customers excludes public fire protection service to eliminate problems with duplication when this service is billed directly to customers. One additional expenses benchmark is total operating expenses per full-time equivalent employee.

Mass Property Plant Accounts – For mains, services, meters and hydrants, the average cost for both plant additions and plant retirements is computed. Dollar amounts are taken from the Water Utility Plant in Service schedules for utility-financed and contributed plant, and units added and retired are from the related statistical schedules. The number of hydrants includes flushing hydrants.

Pumping Statistics – Benchmarks are computed for kilowatt hours of electricity used to operate pumps and for the percent of water loss that is unaccounted for.

Financial Ratios – Two benchmarks are computed, the first being the ratio of long-term debt compared to total capital structure at end of year. Total capital structure includes long term debt plus municipal earning equity. For utilities with no long-term debt or with negative municipal equity, the debt to equity ratio is not computed. The other statistic is rate of return on average net investment rate base.

PSC Staff Contact: Mark Williams
Phone: (608)266-5726