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Water & Sewer

Water Industry Overview

The PSC updated its administrative rules pertaining to water utility construction, expansion, and acquisition (ch. PSC 184) and to water loss and water conservation (ch. PSC 185). A summary of the changes is available here.  The text of the rules can be downloaded here.

The Division of Water, Compliance and Consumer Affairs (DWCCA) is responsible for carrying out the PSC’s regulatory authority related to water and wastewater utilities.  This oversight includes:

Drinking Water Utilities
The PSC oversees more than 580 drinking water utilities operating in Wisconsin, including both municipal and investor-owned utilities.  The PSC’s authority extends to any water system that provides water to the public for domestic, commercial, or industrial purposes.  However, regional water authorities, cooperatives, water trusts, and private wells are generally not subject to PSC regulation.

Only six water utilities in the state are privately owned and operated; the rest are municipally owned.  Approximately 50 percent of the water pumped by Wisconsin water utilities comes from surface water sources in the Great Lakes basin, including Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and Lake Winnebago.  The remainder comes from a mixture of deep and shallow groundwater wells.

The PSC’s water fact sheet provides more information about the water utility industry in Wisconsin.

Wastewater Utilities
The PSC regulates fewer than 15 of the more than 600 wastewater (sanitary sewer) utilities operating in Wisconsin.  In general, municipal wastewater utilities voluntarily choose to be regulated by the PSC by combining their water and wastewater operations into a single public utility.  While any investor-owned wastewater utility would be subject to PSC regulation, none currently operates in Wisconsin.  For wastewater systems, the PSC regulates rates and rules, practices and procedures, plant additions, and service quality.  For the unregulated sewer systems, the local governing bodies are responsible for the operations and the establishment of rates.  Nonetheless, the PSC may get involved in customer complaints or disputes about rates and practices for any wastewater utility in the state.