Water & Sewer Rates

A series of briefings on the changes that happen to the water and sewer rate structures that New Yorkers pay very little attention to.

New York City’s residential building owners pay a disproportionate share of the City’s water and sewer infrastructure.

Although most believe that their water and sewer costs are based on water consumption, by 2009 only 46% of the average water and sewer bill will reflect actual usage, while 45% will go towards the cost of infrastructure maintenance and construction. In 2 years, infrastructure costs will exceed the operating costs of the system itself and will continue to grow through 2020. As a result, if water usage declines, the cost to the users (or rate payers) actually will rise to keep pace with the capital infrastructure costs.

Even worse, building owners in some neighborhoods pay far more for water and sewer. While the average apartment in Southern Manhattan (below E.96th St. and below W.110th St.) pays 8 percent less per housing unit than the Citywide average for similar buildings, Northern Manhattan buildings pay 11 percent more than the Citywide average per unit. Bronx buildings, with median household incomes of $25,000, pay 8 percent more than the Citywide average.

Since 2007, we have been writing clear, straightforward briefings on the issue and keeping track of the latest developments…you can read them below.

Featured Impact
Inside Edge: How to Collect Water and Sewer Bills

Currently the Mayor and the City Council are at loggerheads on the question of how to collect water and sewer bills in the City of New York. While the standoff continues, thousands of accounts are in default, an estimated $589 million of badly needed revenue is uncollected, and the City’s ability to sell real estate tax liens has expired. While the Mayor insists on the authority to sell water and sewer tax liens, the Council wants billing errors to be corrected prior to any such sale. It appears that a perfectly workable straight-forward answer exists but has been ignored. It requires no legislation and could be put into practice tomorrow.

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Urban Prospect: Liquid Assets

In 1988 the City changed the method for collecting water and sewer charges from a system based on the amount of building frontage, to a system based on metered charges determined by actual water usage. It would have been fair to presume that this change would distribute the cost of using water equitably and encourage conservation of a scarce natural resource. In reality, however, the cost of water now has less to do with the amount consumed and more to do with the enormous cost of the infrastructure required to deliver it.


Inside Edge: How to Collect Water and Sewer Bills

Currently the Mayor and the City Council are at loggerheads on the question of how to collect water and sewer bills in the City of New York. While the standoff continues, thousands of accounts are in default, an estimated $589 million of badly needed revenue is uncollected, and the City’s ability to sell real estate tax liens has expired. While the Mayor insists on the authority to sell water and sewer tax liens, the Council wants billing errors to be corrected prior to any such sale. It appears that a perfectly workable straight-forward answer exists but has been ignored. It requires no legislation and could be put into practice tomorrow.


Informatics ×+

Play “Life of a Building”

Play “Life of a Building” to explore the challenges of keeping an old rental building in good physical and financial health.


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