Getting to know the MUD: Understanding your Water Bill
Part two in our series, Getting to know the MUD, attempts to clarify the charges on residents’ monthly water bill. An abridged summary of this article appeared in the April 2017 issue of the Atascocita Forest Community Gazette. Below is the full-length version of this article.
Your water bill displays information about your current and past water usage. The Readings and Consumption section contains specific information about your water meter and your water usage reading for the month being billed. It includes your meter number (used to identify the account to which the meter belongs) and the date on which your meter was read by a SiEnviro employee.
This section also contains your current usage meter reading and the prior usage meter reading. The prior reading is subtracted from the current reading, providing your usage for that period. In our example bill, the prior reading (115.2) is subtracted from the current reading (118.5), meaning the usage for the month being billed is 3.3. Note that water usage is expressed in thousands of gallons, so the usage for this month was 3,300 gallons.
The Total Gallons section displays a historical water usage graph, which is helpful not only to identify your peak water usage times (such as in the summer for irrigating plants), but can also tip you off to water leaks or other problems. If you notice that your usage inexplicably rose during one period and has stayed that high consistently, then it is likely that you have a water leak that needs to be fixed; even a small leak can cause your water bill to increase significantly. Note that the graph is oriented so that the months are in reverse chronology; the current month is on the far left, rather than on the far right end.
CHARGES AND FEES
This section lists the charges which constitute your bill each month. It is important to be aware that your “water” bill contains charges for more than just your water. Trail of the Lakes MUD provides water service, sewer service and wastewater treatment, trash service, and our contract police coverage by Harris County Precinct 4 Constables, and all of those services are included in your water bill. Let’s break down the line item charges individually:
- Water: This is the amount charged by Trail of the Lakes MUD for the water you used during the month being billed. For many residents, that charge will always be $16, as their usage is unlikely to exceed 8,000 gallons. The MUD’s water rates are as follows:
- The first 8,000 gallons used are charged a flat rate of $16. Even if you do not use any water during the billing cycle, you will still be charged the $16, as it is the minimum service fee.
- 8,001 – 12,000 gallons: $1.00 per 1,000 gallons used
- 12,001 – 16,000 gallons: 1.25 per 1,000 gallons used
- 16,001 – 25,000 gallons: 1.50 per 1,000 gallons used
- 25,001 or more: 2.00 per 1,000 gallons used
- Sewer: This is a flat rate of $33.05 per month, which includes sewer service and wastewater treatment, as well as trash collection service.
- Authority Fee: This is a usage fee that is charged by the West Harris County Regional Water Authority (WHCRWA), which is responsible for implementing systems to encourage responsible water use and reduce surface water usage by municipalities (including MUDs). The WHCRWA charges the MUD for water that is used in a given month, and the MUD in turn passes that charge along to residents based on their usage. The rate that residents in the Trail of the Lakes MUD pay is $2.70 per 1000 gallons used. In our example bill, the usage was 3.3 (thousand gallons), which multiplied by $2.70 equals $8.91. Note that unlike the MUD’s rate for water, the WHCRWA is not staggered; you pay $2.70 / 1000 gallons, regardless of how much or little water you use in a given month. Because in the difference in how these two charges function, in some cases the authority fee charge on your bill will be higher than the water charge: if you use 8,000 gallons in a month, your water charge will be $16, but your authority fee would be $21.60.
- Security Fee: This is a flat recurring fee charged by the MUD to help cover the costs of the contract with Harris County Constable, Pct. 4, who provide police patrol and response services throughout the entire MUD district. Note that this fee was recently reduced from $6.00 to $5.00 per month.
- Optional GBCC Contribution: This $1 optional donation goes to the Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition (GBCC), which develops and funds improvement projects along Greens Bayou. From the GBCC website: The GBCC “seeks to benefit the economy and enhance the quality of life for the more than 500,000 residents in the Greens Bayou watershed through flood mitigation, parks and trails development, and economic development.” Further, their “vision is to foster, encourage, coordinate, advocate for and participate with Houston-area infrastructure providers and other community and stakeholder groups to develop an essential, attractive and well-planned multi-use waterway…” You can learn more about the GBCC and their mission and programs at www.greensbayou.org/about/