Tulsa City Council Asked To Approve 3% Sewer Rate Increase

May 5, 2021

A slide shared with city councilors Wednesday showed some of the problems with Tulsa's sewer system: (clockwise from top left) uncapped drains letting rain and other substances into the system, severely corroded pipes, overflows, and tree roots.

Tulsa utility officials are not asking for a water rate increase next fiscal year, but they are requesting a 3% sewer rate hike.

Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority Operations Administrative Manager Eric Lee said because of the pandemic, requested sewer increases this year and last are less than half of what was planned.

"So, a median customer — not the average customer, because we have some water customers on the residential side that kind of bring that average up, so we like to look at the median customer — it’s about 4,500 gallons of water and 3,000 gallons of sewer. For them, it’s going to be about $1.18 per month," Lee told city councilors during a Wednesday committee meeting.

Lee said he gets a lot of questions about why sewer charges are now a bigger share of city utility bills than water charges.

"And really, it’s because our assets on the sewer side degrade and deteriorate faster than on the water side. And so, this is happening across utilities across the United States. Their sewer budgets are becoming more, their sewer rates are becoming more. We’re no different, I think, than the rest of the nation," Lee said.

More than half of the proposed $136 million sewer fund budget is allocated to needed capital improvements and debt service on projects the city had to borrow money for. There’s more than $54 million in capital projects planned for the city’s sewer system in FY22, triple what’s in the pipe for the water system.

The city is still trying to get out from under a consent decree for its sewer system. Tulsa residents can expect sewer rate increases for the next several years as the city tries to catch up on fixes. No water rate increases are currently projected until 2025.