Water Sewer FAQs

​Water Utility Resources and FAQs

Where can I find my water rates?​

Every Wisconsin water utility is required to keep its rates and rules (tariffs) on file and avaialble to its customers. In addition, customers can view utility tariffs on the PSC website:

Water Utility Tariffs

"Water: What You Pay For" video

This short video explains what's in a typical water customer's bill and how that bill helps pay for the costs of delivering consistent, reliable, and safe water from source to tap.

Value of Water Video

Good Question: Why Are My Water Rates Going Up? Video

How should the utility bill a customer when there is a discrepancy between the base meter and the remote register?

Wisconsin Administrative Code § PSC 185.34 provides the procedures for determining backbills (or refunds) for customers when there is a discrepancy between the base meter and ROM. This code section, listed below, is fairly complex. If you have any questions please contact Consumer Affairs at 1-800-225-7729.

PSC 185.34 Adjustment of bills (ROM).

STOPPED ROM. A stopped ROM is defined as one that has recorded zero consumption during the last meter reading period. The consumption that was measured by the base meter and not recorded by the remote register shall be backbilled as current consumption. The usage backbilled as current consumption shall not exceed the customer's average usage per billing period based on the latest 12-months usage. Any amount greater than this usage shall be backbilled pursuant to sub (2).

STOPPED AND UNDER-REGISTERING ROM. Unrecorded ROM consumption (base meter reading less ROM reading) resulting from sub (1) or an under-registering ROM shall be prorated from the date of the last base meter reading. Pursuant to Wis. Stat 196.635, Stats., the utility may backbill for prorated amounts associated with the last 24 months.

OVER-REGISTERING ROM. A ROM over registration ( OM reading less base meter reading) shall be prorated from the date of the last base meter reading. The utility shall refund prorated amounts associated with the period since the meter was installed or last tested, not to exceed the last 6 years.

History: Cr. Register, January, 1997, No. 493, eff. 2-1-97.

Can the utility forgive or forgo a late payment charge (LPC) on a delinquent water bill?

A utility cannot waive a properly applied LPC that has been authorized by the PSC under Wis. Admin. Code. § PSC 185.33 (9) or (10) and included in the utility's filed rates (in the billing paragraph of schedule Mg-1).

Can the utility disconnect a customer for nonpayment of non-utility arrears?

No. The PSC allows municipalities to recover non-utility sewer charges, storm water fees, solid waste collection charges and landfill remediation costs on the water bill. This convenience of using the water bill is conditioned on these other non-utility charges being clearly identified on the bill and not affecting the water utility’s administration of its customer accounts.

For example, nonpayment of non-utility charges could not result in a late fee applied to the water bill or disconnection of water utility service.

What if my water utility asks for a deposit?​

Residential Customers

A new residential customer may be asked to post a deposit if they owe an undisputed bill for any utility service incurred in Wisconsin within the last six years.

A current residential customer may be asked to post a deposit if :

◾Their service was shut off during the last 12 months.

◾They falsified a service application.

Residential deposits are returned with interest after 12 consecutive months of prompt payment.

The utility may accept, in lieu of a residential cash deposit, a contract signed by a guarantor satisfactory to the utility. The contract guarantees a specified sum not exceeding the amount of the cash deposit or guarantees payment of all future bills.

Commercial Customers

A new commercial customer may be asked to post a deposit if the applicant's credit hasn't been established to the utility's satisfaction.

A current commercial customer may be asked to post a deposit if :

◾They have not made prompt payment of all utility bills in the last 24 months.

◾Their service was shut off during the last 12 months.

◾They falsified a service application.

Commercial deposits are returned with interest after 24 consecutive months of prompt payment.

The utility may accept, in lieu of a commercial cash deposit, a contract signed by a guarantor satisfactory to the utility. The contract guarantees a specified not exceeding the amount of the cash deposit.

**You do not have to post a deposit if your income is below 200 percent of the federal poverty level guidelines.**

Why conservation in a Great Lakes state?

Wisconsin is generally blessed with abundant rainfall, plentiful surface waters, and vast groundwater resources. However, water is not always available in the quantity or quality that is needed for human uses. Many Wisconsin communities already face serious water supply challenges caused by declining groundwater supplies, water quality issues, and aging utility infrastructure. At the same time, changing demand patterns associated with dynamic economic and development factors as well as successful conservation practices can create revenue stability issues. The number of communities facing these challenges is expected to grow in the coming years.

Drinking water utilities have many options for achieving conservation and efficiency. These options fall into three general categories: reducing customer demand (demand management programs), managing water loss, and adopting conservation-oriented rate structures. The Public Service Commission (PSC) works with Wisconsin water utilities to incorporate water conservation and efficiency measures into water supply planning and to promote customers' efficient and sustainable use of water while ensuring revenue stability. These efforts can reduce wasteful consumption, avoid the need to invest in expensive drinking water and wastewater capacity, and save energy and chemicals used to pump, treat, and distribute water. In the long term, conservation and efficiency measures save both the utility and the ratepayers money and provide other economic and environmental benefits to Wisconsin.

How can I conserve water?

Protecting Wisconsin’s precious water resources begins with you!

Everyone can do his or her part to conserve water.  Here are some simple steps you can take at home or at work:

  • Monitor your water bill for unusually high use to discover leaks
  • Fix leaky faucets, showers and toilets or replace with WaterSense labeled models
  • Don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth
  • Only wash full loads of laundry and dishes
  • Reduce or eliminate watering of lawns and landscaping
  • Use rain barrels to collect rainwater for outdoor plants
  • Spruce Up Your Sprinkler System - a short video

For more information about saving water around the home, including a home water use calculator, visit the Home Water Works website, sponsored by the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

Toilet Rebates and Other Incentives

You can save hundreds of gallons each year by replacing leaking or outdated toilets.  Many Wisconsin water utilities offer rebates or other incentives to customers who install WaterSense-labeled toilets, faucets, showerheads, and other products.  Some utilities also offer low-cost or free rain barrels for their customers.  Contact your local water utility and ask whether they have a water conservation program and whether you may be eligible to receive assistance.  watersense.jpg

How much water (and money) can YOU save?

Additional water saving tips and information:

Does my water utility have a conservation program?

Each Wisconsin water utility is required to implement basic water conservation and efficiency measures, including metering all water sales, conducting routine meter testing, monitoring losses and leaks in the distribution system, and collecting and reporting water audit information to the PSC. These requirements can be found in Wis. Admin. Code ch.185 Water utilities often provide additional leadership and funding for community conservation efforts, which can include demand side measures such as water fixture rebates, incentive programs, education and outreach, customer water audits, restrictions on lawn watering, and water rates that encourage water efficient behavior. Water conservation programs also include supply side measures such as non-revenue water control. Successful water conservation programs combine both demand side and supply side efforts and are integrated into utilities and planning for future supply sources. Because each utility is unique, there is no single approach to water conservation that is appropriate for all.

Utilities with Conservation Rates for Residential Customers

Utilities with Rebate Programs

Drinking water utilities that use ratepayer dollars to pay for rebate and incentive and other conservation programs are required to report their activities each year on page W27 of their annual financial report.

Where can I find detailed information about my water utility?

Every Wisconsin water utility is required to file an annual financial report to the PSC by April 1. These reports include financial and operating data. To view your utility's annual report, as well as and run a query and download data, visit:

Annual Water Utility Financial Reports

Sewer Utility ​Resources and FAQs

Does the PSC regulate sewer utilities?

While all Wisconsin water utilities are regulated, sewer utility regulation is primarily a voluntary decision on the part of the municipality. Investor-owned sewer utilities would be regulated, but none currently exist. Municipal sewerage systems (sanitary as well as storm water) do not fall within the definition of “public utility” under Wisconsin Statute § 196.01(5) and therefore do not require PSC approval when setting rates and rules. There are over 600 sewer operations in Wisconsin.

Although the PSC does not currently have primary jurisdiction over sewer systems​, it has limited authority over municipal sanitary sewer issues. Pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 66.0821(5)(a), any user of a sewer system may file a complaint with the Commission concerning the rates, rules, or practices of the municipality. Upon receiving a complaint, the PSC reviews the reasonableness of the municipality's rates, rules, and practices. As these operations are not public utilities fully regulated by the PSC, it is the responsibility of the complainant to develop the basis for complaint. Generally, individual, informal complaints are reviewed by PSC staff, whereas more formal or legal questions are set for hearing, with parties developing a record in support of their individual positions. The Commission decides the issues based on the merits of the hearing record.

Can a utility give customers credit for water used for lawn watering or otherwise not discharged to the sewer system?

Sewer utilities that are not regulated by the Public Service Commission (PSC) have several alternatives available to recognize water consumption which does not enter the sewer system. The most common methods used are:

1. Do not offer any sprinkling credit on sewer bills. This maintains a lower sewer rate throughout the year, since the water used is part of the volume factored in when designing new sewer rates.

2. Estimate the volume of sewage for the summer quarter based on an average winter quarter's water consumption. Bill the customer based on his or her actual metered water consumption, or the winter quarter(s) consumption, whichever is less.

3. Have a summer sewer volume rate that is lower than the winter volume rate.

4. Require a separate meter be installed to measure water which does not reach the sanitary sewer. (All sewer utilities regulated by the PSC are required to offer this option).

5. Direct meter sewer (applicable primarily in industrial applications).

6. A combination of the above methods.

All methods have sewer volume rates based on the concept of "billable units". If sewer charges are based on water usage with no adjustments, the number of units billed will be higher than the number of units that must be treated at the sewer plant. The resulting cost per unit is then lower. If credits are given, either through a second meter or a summer sprinkling credit, the number of billable units decrease and the cost per unit is then higher. All of the above options are in practice and are acceptable in the unregulated sewer industry (PSC does not set rates and rules). A municipality that allows billing only for volumes that enter the sewer, there are two metering ownership options available.

Water Utility Ownership of Meters

In this case, the water utility retains ownership of the sewer deduct meters and requires installation according to water utility specifications. The customer pays a charge for the additional meter each billing period as authorized by the PSC in Schedule Am-1. One advantage of this method is that the water utility controls the permanent location of the meter and remote register placements and determines appropriate repair and maintenance schedules. A disadvantage is the water utility's need to provide the financing to purchase and maintain the sewer deduct meters. The accounting of these meters would be the same as any other water meter that the water utility currently owns and maintains. Where the metering configuration would require the two water meter readings be added together for billing water, the PSC requires both meters be owned by the water utility.

Sewer Department Ownership of Meters

The water utility may sell meters to the sewer department, or the sewer department could buy meters directly from a vendor. The sewer department can then sell or rent meters to sewer customers. Under this option, all related costs such as testing and repairing these meters is handled by the sewer department, not the water utility. In this case, the sewer deduct meters are owned and recorded on the books of the sewer department, and it could recover its costs by implementing a sewer department charge. If the water utility purchases a specific lot of meters for the sewer department, the water utility could simply invoice the sewer department for the cost of the meters. Commission staff recommends the water utility not sell meters directly to the sewer customers, since this may be construed by sewer customers that the water utility is responsible for obtaining meter readings placed in inaccessible locations and other problems associated with the operation and maintenance of these meters.

Does the PSC have jurisdiction over damages resulting from sewer backups?

The PSC does not have jurisdiction over damages due to sewer backups. The party affected should try to work with the sewer utility/municipality to resolve the issue. If the party is unable to reach a satisfactory settlement with the sewer utility/municipality, the party may wish to consult with an attorney regarding possible legal remedies.

Who has ownership and maintenance responsibilities for sewer laterals?

The Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates only a small number of sewer systems and is not directly involved with setting rates or service rules for most systems in the state. Generally, the property owner or customer owns and maintains the service lateral all the way from the dwelling to the sewer utility’s main within the street. Unlike water utilities, where there is a clear demarcation of ownership at the curb stop located at or near the property line, no similar physical feature is typically present on a sewer lateral. Sewer laterals are also more prone to blockages. Making the customer responsible for the entire lateral provides the customer with an incentive to care for the operation and use of the lateral. It also prevents questions regarding who is responsible for roots and other issues occurring at, or near, the property line.

The disadvantage of making the customer responsible for the operation and use of the lateral is that it places the burden on the customer’s contractor for occasionally having to work in the public right of way which is generally best handled, from a safety standpoint, by the sewer utility or its contractor. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the over 600 sewer systems in the state make the property owner or customer responsible for ownership as well as maintenance of the sewer lateral. To provide for consistent and nondiscriminatory treatment of sewer customers, the PSC recommends utilities have a written policy statement or ordinance defining the ownership and maintenance responsibilities for sewer laterals.