A: Charges from Johnson County Wastewater are for the safe and efficient transport of wastewater from your home and the treatment of that water before returning it to area creeks, lakes, and rivers. Public water utilities bill you for the water that comes into your home for drinking, cooking, bathing, and watering your lawn.
Q: Why is my water bill less than my wastewater bill?
A: There are several factors affecting the cost of cleaning wastewater, including energy, chemicals, and reinvestment in the collection and treatment systems. Pollutants in the wastewater must be removed to ensure the protection of public health, aquatic life and the environment before returning it to the environment. The cleaned water must meet water quality requirements.
The treatment process not only eliminates disease-causing bacteria to protect the environment for human and aquatic life, but also removes other elements such as ammonia, which can be harmful to fish, as well as nitrogen and phosphorus. These nutrients can cause excessive algae growth in streams, rivers and lakes.
Q: As a new customer, when will I receive my first bill? Will I get my water bill and wastewater bill at the same time?
A: Johnson County Wastewater billing statements follow the public water utilities by about two weeks.
Q: Why aren’t the water bill and wastewater bill combined?
A: Because Johnson County Wastewater is a separate utility that is not associated with any of the independently owned and operated water companies providing water service within our service district, it is necessary for us to send a separate billing statement. Johnson County Wastewater and the public water utilities are separate entities and are governed by different governmental bodies. If you have questions about your wastewater bill, please call 913-715-8590. If you have questions about your water bill, please contact your water company.
Q: How are my sewer charges calculated?
A: Residential charges are determined by multiplying the annual volume of average winter water usage by the rate and adding the customer service charge [(Volume x Rate) + customer service charge = Amount]. This amount will be divided by 12 calendar months, which will give you your monthly charge. Since residential customers are billed bimonthly, your bill has two months' worth of wastewater charges.
Q: What is the Customer Service Charge for?
A: The Customer Service Charge recovers all administrative costs associated with an ongoing billing and collections system. All user classes are charged this fee.
Q: What is the average winter water use (AWWU)?
A: This is your average water usage during winter months based on meter readings. This is the best measure of the volume of drinkable water used at the property during the winter months that reasonably estimates the volume of wastewater discharged to the wastewater treatment facilities of Johnson County Wastewater. By using winter water usage, Johnson County Wastewater can accurately estimate the volume of wastewater discharged into the treatment facilities by each property. Winter water usage is used to avoid charging for heavier summer uses that do not impact the wastewater treatment system like watering your lawn and garden, washing your car, or filling your swimming pool.
Q: Which months will Johnson County Wastewater use to calculate my winter water usage?
A: The customer's average winter water use will be based on four of the six months between November and April, depending on the customer's billing cycle.
Q: I have a swimming pool. Will I have to pay for filling my pool?
A: Winter water usage is used in the wastewater bill calculation to avoid charging for usual heavier summer uses such as watering your lawn and garden, washing your car, or filling your swimming pool. If you don’t fill your swimming pool during the winter months, it won’t affect your water usage information for your wastewater bill. All of these water uses do not impact the wastewater treatment system.
Q: I just moved into a new house. How will my “average winter water use” be determined?
A: New customers moving from outside Johnson County Wastewater’s service area will be assigned a default value user charge that is equal to the average winter water use for all residential customers. If new customers provide Johnson County Wastewater with their previous account information, Johnson County Wastewater will calculate an appropriate average winter water use using the information provided. Johnson County Wastewater customers who move within the sanitary sewer district may request to transfer the average winter water use from their previous address.
Q: I leave my home for the winter. Must I pay a wastewater bill?
A: Yes, you will be invoiced based on the default value user charge or the average of your water use during the non-winter months, whichever is less. The default is based on the average residential winter water use for all residential customers. The default user charge is used when the average winter water use appears to be an inaccurate measure of average use, or a customer does not have winter water usage. If you feel that the periods used to calculate your winter water use are inaccurate or not a reflection of your usage, you are required to have and to maintain reasonable documents and records to reflect the use, by volume and strength, of the sewerage system. Please contact JCW Customer Service if you require further assistance.
Q: What if I had a water leak during the winter months and it was repaired, but the winter water usage on my wastewater bill doesn’t reflect the adjustment I received from the public water utility?
A: Please call the Johnson County Wastewater Customer Service Center at 913-715-8590 to report all billing issues.
Q: Why has my wastewater bill increased so much since the early 2000s?
A: The increase in rates over the past two decades has climbed, but the comparison to the bill then versus now is not a clear-cut one.
The capital and operating rates are now combined into a single rate because we changed our capital rate methodology to be the same as our operating rate, which is based on water use. This change means it is not possible to accurately calculate the percentage increase of rates when comparing current rates to those charged prior to 2014 without assistance from JCW staff.
The user charge rate prior to 2014 did not include a capital component as it does today. To accurately compare rates, you have to include the capital portion of JCW’s rates. Prior to 2012, capital costs were recovered by the fixed Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU) charge that was billed on the annual real estate tax statements. In 2013, JCW moved the EDU from the tax roll to the user charge bill.
In 2014, JCW completed a multi-year conversion of its billing method to a unified rate model. This was the first year JCW billed a combined rate and the larger than normal increases in the service charge and volume rates were due to adding the capital component to the rates.
Q: What is the rate increase in 2019?
A: In 2019, JCW’s revenue requirement increased by 7.75 percent, which equates to $2.70 a month for the median household or $5.40 on each bi-monthly bill. The revenue requirement represents the total amount of money JCW must collect from customers to pay all costs. This increase is higher than those in previous years due to several factors as well as the Tomahawk Plant expansion, which will help keep rates lower once the project is completed in 2022. We are investing now to save more over the long term.
A large increase in your average winter water use (AWWU) will impact wastewater charges more than rate increases. See questions above that provide information concerning the AWWU.
Q: Why do wastewater rates go up every year?
A: There are several reasons for annual rate increases. They include:
- Inflation – The industry sees increased costs to do business, including costs for power, chemicals, solids disposal and labor costs.
- Water quality compliance requirements is another driver of increased costs. Because the water is returned to streams, river, etc. once it has been treated, the EPA continues to increase regulatory requirements to protect public health, protect the environment and ensure clean water. For example, JCW has been directed to uphold:
- New ammonia release criteria for area waterways, which will provide better protection for fish and other aquatic life.
- Increased nutrient removal requirements. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus facilitate algae growth which results in the oxygen depletion that affect fish and other aquatic life in local streams and lakes as well as larger downstream water bodies such as the Gulf of Mexico where large fish kills have occurred over the last several decades.
Continued investment in preventive maintenance – Unlike many utilities, JCW has a fiscally responsible and proactive asset management, maintenance and repair program that helps keep the cost of operating and maintaining the wastewater system lower by avoiding expensive repairs and clean-up costs resulting from deferred maintenance of sanitary sewer pipes and wastewater treatment equipment. By reinvesting in our aging system, JCW has significantly reduced the occurrences of collapsing pipes and public health issues from back-ups and raw sewage overflows. By investing a little at a time you get more out of the system by improving the durability, life and reliability of the county’s assets, thus lessening the impact to rates.
Q: How do Johnson County’s Wastewater rates compare to other rates in the metro?
A: JCW’s rates are among the lowest in the metro and have been consistently so for many years because we have pro-actively reinvested in our system with activities such as repair, replacement and preventative maintenance. Our collection system is a huge investment worth $1.7 billion. See how JCW compares to other wastewater utilities.
Q: If the Tomahawk project is supposed to save so much money, why are rates going up?
A: Tomahawk is only one of several factors that causes rate increases every year. (See answer to question above about why wastewater rates are increasing every year - make sentence a link)
By increasing the size of the plant, we will no longer need to send 60 percent of our wastewater which is treated at the Tomahawk Creek facility to Kansas City, Missouri for treatment, allowing us to better control our costs and be much more efficient. Therefore, the Tomahawk Project will significantly lessen the amount of rate increases in the future.
Once the project is completed, we will be saving approximately $16 million annually by not sending flow to KCMO and paying them to do the treatment. Over a 35 year period, it will save JCW hundreds of millions of dollars. Without the improvements to Tomahawk, significant savings would not be possible in the future because we would continue to pay KCMO for treatment, and this would result in much higher annual rate increases for customers.
Q: Is a deposit required for wastewater service?
A: Currently, Johnson County Wastewater does not require a deposit for service.
Customer Service, Billing Process
Q: How often are the wastewater bills distributed?
A: Johnson County Wastewater bills are distributed every other month to residential properties and monthly to commercial and industrial customers. Look for billing statements in envelopes clearly marked with the Johnson County Wastewater logo and address.
Q: How long do I have to pay my bill?
A: The due date is 30 days from the statement date.
Q: How may I pay my bill?
A: Please visit Payment Options.
Q: What happens if I don’t pay my wastewater bill on time?
A: Bills will be due within 30 days of the billing date. A delinquent notice will be mailed five days after the due date if payment has not been received. The delinquent amount will be subject to the accrual of interest and a late fee.
Q: What do I do if I have a billing question or think there is an error on my bill?
A: Please call the Johnson County Wastewater Customer Service Center at 913-715-8590 to report all billing issues.
Renting & Selling
Q: If I rent, whose name will be on the account?
A: The name on the Johnson County Wastewater account will be the same as the name on the public water utility's account, unless Johnson County Wastewater is directed otherwise.
Q: Must I notify anyone at Johnson County Wastewater (for billing purposes) if I buy or sell a house?
A: Yes. Please call the Customer Service Center and inform them of all billing changes or fill out the reverse side of your payment stub on your final bill.
Q: I’m a senior citizen living on a fixed income. Am I entitled to a discount?
A: No. Please contact the Johnson County Department of Human Services to see if you are eligible for utility assistance with this bill. That number is 913-715-6653.
Q: I claimed an income tax deduction under the mill levy system. Can I continue to do so with this new wastewater billing system?
A: As a preliminary matter, please note that Johnson County does not provide tax advice to its customers regarding the deductibility or non-deductibility of its charges for federal or state income tax purposes, and advises customers to consult their CPA or other tax professional regarding proper treatment of such charges.
Q: Is anyone exempt from paying a user fee?
A: Yes, anyone not connected to Johnson County Wastewater’s sanitary sewer system will not pay a User Charge.
Q: Do I pay a user fee if I am on a septic tank system?
A: No. Septic tank users do not pay the User Charge because they are not connected to the sanitary sewer system.
Long Range Classifications
Q: What are the user classifications under the billing system?
A: There are six classifications:
- Residential (single-family dwellings)
- Multi-family residential (apartment complexes, duplexes, etc.)
- Small Commercial (wastewater discharge of 27,000 gallons per day or less)
- Large Commercial and Industrial (wastewater discharge of more than 27,000 gallons per day)
- Subscribers (wholesale customers such as other political units and municipal corporations within the Johnson County Wastewater Sewer District)
- Exempt (real estate property in the Johnson County Wastewater Sewer District are determined to be exempt from ad valorem taxes, but not from wastewater charges)
Q: My water bill is in cubic feet and my wastewater bill is in gallons. How do I convert from cubic feet to gallons?
A: There are 7.48 gallons per cubic foot (7.48 x cubic feet = gallons).
Q: What is the difference between storm water and wastewater?
A: Storm water is water from rain and other sources that drains into a street drainage system where it flows to streams and creeks. Storm water drainage systems help prevent flooding and bank erosion. These systems are typically maintained by the cities in Johnson County. Storm water services are provided by Johnson County Public Works in unincorporated areas of the county. Individual cities within the county provided storm water services for incorporated areas. Johnson County Wastewater does not provide storm water services. Wastewater is used water from homes and businesses. Johnson County Wastewater collects, transports, and treats wastewater before it is returned to streams and creeks.
Q: What is Johnson County Wastewater’s long-range rate plan for wastewater services?
A: As part of its strategic planning process, Johnson County Wastewater annually reviews its operations and plans rate adjustments accordingly, based on changes in the economy and prices for utilities and chemicals used in the operations of wastewater facilities. After a thorough examination by an industry leader in utility rate analysis, Johnson County Wastewater submits the Operation and Maintenance Budget and the user charge rates to the Johnson County Board of Commissioners (BOCC), for approval. JCW will continue to work closely with the BOCC to ensure the best interests and needs of customers are being addressed.