On June 28, 2019, Carolina Water Service, Inc. of North Carolina (CWSNC) filed a rate case with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). Docket number is W-354, Sub 364. CWSNC is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Company presently serves approximately 34,915 water customers and 21,403 sewer customers in North Carolina and operates approximately 93 water systems and 38 sewer systems in the State.
The Company’s service territory spans 38 counties in North Carolina, from Corolla in Currituck County to Bear Paw in Cherokee County. CWSNC applied for an adjustment in water and sewer rates and charges for all of its service areas in North Carolina.
COVID-19. As a result of COVID-19 and until some point in the future, CWSNC has reconnected all customers disconnected for non-payment, suspended all future disconnects, and has ceased collecting and billing late payment charges.
While we know that there is no good time for a rate increase, we also understand the impacts of a rate increase during this unprecedented period and are committed to working with our customers during and after the state of emergency. Once the pandemic-related orders are lifted by the Governor’s office and the NC Utilities Commission, we will provide payment plans or payment arrangements for customers impacted financially by the COVID-19 virus. That said, customers may now contact the Company at any time to request a payment arrangement or payment plan.
Rate Cases. CWSNC’s previous rate case (Docket W-354, Sub 360) was filed on April 27, 2018, and an order was issued approving the consolidated rates, which were in effect from February 21, 2019 until the Company’s new rates were approved on March 31, 2020, in Docket W-354, Sub 364. From the filing of the 2018 rate case until the date of the Commission’s order in March of this year, CWSNC spent over $22 million to provide service in North Carolina. These investments were reasonable and necessary, they are installed and providing service to customers, and it is thus necessary that the costs be recovered in rates.
Customers’ rates are based on a thorough cost, operations, and quality of service examination by the Public Staff, NC Attorney General’s Office, other intervenors in the proceeding, and by the NC Utilities Commission itself. In addition, customers may provide comments and feedback during the public hearings held throughout the Company’s service territory during the course of the rate case process. The proper level of rates to be charged by the Company to facilitate proper service to its customers is ultimately approved by the NCUC commissioners.
The cost of service and tariff rate proposals are more fully explained in CWSNC’s rate filing documentation, which is made publicly available through the Commission’s website. All parties interested in this matter may obtain information either directly from CWSNC or by addressing the Secretary of the North Carolina Utilities Commission, 430 North Salisbury Street, Dobbs Building, 5th Floor, Raleigh, NC 27603-5918. Customers may also visit the NCUC website and search Docket “W-354 Sub 364” at https://starw1.ncuc.net/NCUC/page/Dockets/portal.aspx.
The total rate increase authorized by the Commission’s March order was 14.56%, which for the Uniform Water Rate Division was 9.73%, and for Uniform Sewer was 22.56%. Bradfield/Fairfield Water was 7.21%, and its Sewer was 6.77%. See the chart below for detailed information.
We have the responsibility to upgrade our infrastructure and make the necessary improvements to continue to provide quality service. We also must comply with changing state and federal environmental regulations and maintain a safe working environment for our employees. It is well-understood that water and sewer infrastructure across the country is aging and in need of significant investment to maintain proper service and address environmental concerns.
Many of the Company’s systems are reaching the end of their useful life and must be replaced, rehabilitated, or upgraded to avoid system failures. To that end, CWSNC has invested over $22 million in capital improvements since its last rate case, which is not included in prior rates.
It is important to note that all investments driving the requested increase have already been incurred by the Company and are providing service to customers before a change in rates is implemented.
WSIC/SSIC. As of March 31, 2020, the WSIC/SSIC surcharges were reset to $0. These charges may resume in the future should the Company continue to invest in eligible improvements in its water and sewer infrastructure and would be subject to rigorous review and approval by the Commission.
Comparison to rates of other providers. All providers have individual characteristics of service, source, density, taxpayer support (or lack thereof), and financing; therefore, rate comparisons among them lack meaning. The municipal water companies cannot be fairly compared to the regulated private water companies for so many reasons—–their funding sources are generally different and include support from taxation policies, they usually enjoy increased density and thus a lower cost per customer to serve, and they often utilize more efficient surface impoundments for sources of water, to name a few.
CWSNC and other private water companies can only recoup money for maintenance and construction through rates and after the facilities are in use and are useful, which is usually months after the construction or maintenance has occurred. Private water companies also pay property taxes on all their facilities, which is a cost the municipal systems do not incur. Further, these regulated companies rely for much of their service on a large, un-networked system of individual wells and smaller sewer plants, spread across a large swath of the state in areas that are, generally, less populated.
What is changing with my water and sewer rates?
The table below shows a comparison of average water and sewer bills at old and new rates for a 5/8” residential customer.
|Entity||Avg. Billed Gallons||Present Monthly Bill||New Monthly Bill||Amount Change||% Change|
|Uniform Water||3,607||$ 53.07||$ 58.75||$ 5.68||11%|
|Uniform Sewer||3,569||$ 59.23||$ 75.29||$ 16.06||27%|
A comparison of the new authorized rates for Uniform Water is below.
|Residential Water||Old Rates||New Rates|
|Meter Size||Base Rate||Usage Rate||Base Rate||Usage Rate|
|Unmetered||$ 53.58||$ 58.54|
|5/8″||$ 27.53||$ 7.08||$ 28.92||$8.27|
|3/4″||$ 27.53||$ 7.08||$ 28.92||$8.27|
|1″||$ 68.83||$ 7.08||$ 72.30||$8.27|
|1.5″||$ 137.65||$ 7.08||$ 144.60||$8.27|
|2″||$ 220.24||$ 7.08||$ 231.36||$8.27|
A comparison of the new authorized rates for Uniform Sewer is below.
|Residential Sewer||Old Rates||New Rates|
|Meter Size||Base Rate||Usage Rate||Base Rate||Usage Rate|
|Flat||$ 57.82||$ 73.73|
|Base Charge||$ 46.31||$ 3.62||$ 58.91||$4.59|
Please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions.
Deborah S. Clark
Community Relations Manager