Sewer and Stormwater

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; however, none currently exist. Municipal sewerage systems - sanitary as well as storm water - do not fall within the definition of “public utility” under Wis. Stat. § 196.01(5) and therefore do not require PSC approval when setting rates and rules. There are over 600 sewer operations in Wisconsin. Of these systems, the PSC regulates two at present. These systems have elected to combine their water and sewer operations into a single public utility. For these two systems, the PSC regulates rates and rules, practices and procedures, plant additions, and service quality, among other areas.

Although the PSC does not regulate most 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.

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Can a municipality form a storm water utility a​nd bill for storm water charges?​

Prior to 1997, most municipalities used general fund revenue​​ to construct and operate storm water infrastructure. In the 1997-98 legislative session, Wisconsin Statute § 66.0821 was amended to explicitly allow a​​ municipality to establish service charges to fund construction and operation of storm and surface water collection and treatment systems.

Does the PSC have jurisdiction over municipal storm water charges?

The PSC has limited authority over municipal charges for storm water or surface water disposal. However, the PSC has authority, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 66.0821(5)(a), to investigate the complaints of any user(s) of an unregulated sanitary or storm water operations once such rates and rules are established and placed into service. Commission staff may review complaints informally, or more formal or legal questions may be set for hearing, with parties developing a record in support of their positions.

How should the municipality determine storm water charges?

The PSC does not prescribe a method for determining storm water charges. It is the responsibility of the municipality to develop storm water charges that are not unreasonable or unjustly discriminatory. The most commonly used method to determine storm water charges is square feet of impervious surface area.

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

The PSC does not have jurisdiction over ​​damages due to sewer backups.