Making ends meet: water and MSD bill explained

Published: Nov. 26, 2021 at 9:08 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - According to a U.S. Census Household Survey, more than 80 million Americans are having difficulty paying their bills.

Utility bills are at the top of that list now that moratoriums on utility shut offs during the pandemic have ended.

Recently, the WAVE 3 Newsroom began to get dozens of calls, emails, and messages by Facebook daily all with the same question, “Why is my water bill so high?”

We spoke to representatives from both the Louisville Water Company and the Louisville Metro Sewer District.

“Louisville Water and Louisville MSD are two separate agencies, but you see us both on the same bill,” stressed Kelley Dearing-Smith, Vice President of Communications & Marketing for the Louisville Water Company. “That’s really for convenience for our customers.”

Many people pick the bill up and immediately pay without looking at what they are being charged for, or if the amount of water used month to month has changed. Those numbers are important, especially if there is a problem with pipes or plumbing.

“If you have never thought about how much water you use, I tell folks to know your number,” exclaimed Dearing-Smith. “Your bill also has a graph that will show your water usage. How it goes up and down. Pause and think, was it hot? Did I water? Did I fill my swimming pool? Was it the holidays? Did I have a house full of people?”

Even if you’re watering your garden or your grass you get a charge not only from the Louisville Water Company but also from MSD.

“When the water comes and when the water goes out,” MSD’s Communications Program Manager Sheryl Lauder explained.

The first charge comes from Louisville Water Company for any water going into your home. MSD then charges you wastewater and stormwater/drainage for the same amount of water.

Customers can get a separate meter for an irrigation system through an application. If they have a separate meter for irrigation, called a retrofit meter, they do not pay MSD wastewater charges.

“If you are using the hose to water the flowers or to water the garden, that is water that goes through the meter, so MSD looks at that as a consumption charge to which they translate into the wastewater charge,” explained Dearing-Smith.

Many of the letters and messages sent to WAVE 3 News also questioned how often Louisville Water Customers received their bill. That can differ from customer to customer.

“Louisville water sends you a bill monthly or bi-monthly,” explained Dearing-Smith. “It’s for the previous 30-60 days.”

Louisville Water will continue a multi-year effort to upgrade water meters throughout Jefferson County. Over the next three years, more than 250,000 Jefferson County customers will move from bi-monthly billing to monthly billing as Louisville Water upgrades the meters that record the water usage.

Louisville Water also announced it will invest more than $80 million dollars to maintain and upgrade the infrastructure that produce and deliver billions of gallons of Louisville’s drinking water, Louisville Pure Tap™.

Infrastructure investment includes $112 million for capital investments and the largest part of those dollars, $80 million, is for replacing and repairing water mains and updating equipment at Louisville Water’s treatment plants.

Louisville Water will use more than $8.3 million from Kentucky’s Cleaner Water Fund to start a project to replace a 100+ year old water main along Oak Street, improve service reliability near West Muhammad Ali Street, install pipe to make water service available to people in Bullitt County, and improve the water system in Oldham County.

Both Louisville Water and Louisville Metro Sewer District adjust their rates yearly.

“Louisville water will usually do a small increase every year in January for the average residential customer,” shared Dearing-Smith. “It’s around 75 cents a month your water bill will go up.

“Every August 1st you’re going to get an MSD increase,” explained Lauder for MSD. “The amount is always determined by the needs, the urgency of the needs at that point in time.”

MSD’s increase this past August was 6.9%. Your payment to MSD helps provide wastewater treatment, stormwater services and flood protection for the entire community.

”It is those three services, and it is a combination of aging infrastructure and the requirements we have with the EPA to greatly reduce any overflows into the water ways,” explained Lauder.

On your Louisville water bill, you will see the commodity charge which is based on how much water you use. The service charge includes what it costs to make your drinking water and get it to you – the treatment, meter, and delivery.

“We’ve been able to keep investing in the water system, making sure the pipes stay in good shape,” shared Dearing-Smith. “Making sure our drinking water quality is superior.”

If you ever feel your bill is too high, you may need to investigate. A leak can cause your bill to soar. A leaking faucet can waste up to 19 gallons a day – or 7,000 gallons a year. Just one drop per second for a year adds up to 180 showers.

“That adds up,” stressed Dearing-Smith. “The most common place that we see household leaks is in the toilet.”

The most important thing if you have a leak is to find it and fix it.

Here’s a link for leak education materials:

To ensure your pipes stay clog free Louisville Metro Sewer Department also wants you pay attention to what you should and should not flush down your toilet.

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MSD Infographic
MSD Infographic(Louisville MSD)

If you have trouble with paying your bill at home or in your business for Louisville Water or Louisville Metro Sewer District, there is help.

Here’s a link for Drops of Kindness, Louisville Water and MSD’s Customer Assistance Program:

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