Drinking Water Operating Permit Fees

In 2011, the Washington State Legislature approved a bill to raise the operating permit fee for public water systems. We have adopted rule changes to carry out this legislative requirement.

The fee increase allows us to continue helping water systems meet their responsibilities to provide safe and reliable drinking water, now and into the future.

How much will my system pay?

The fee structure includes a $100 base fee for all systems and per-connection fees based on the size of the system. We are phasing in the per-connection fees over three years.

  2012 2013 2014
Base fee for all water systems: $100 $100 $100
Per-connection fee:
14 or fewer services $0.65 $0.98 $1.30
15 - 99 services $0.63 $0.94 $1.25
100 - 499 services $0.60 $0.90 $1.20
500 - 999 services $0.58 $0.86 $1.15
1,000 - 9,999 services $0.55 $0.83 $1.10
10,000 - 95,000 services $0.53 $0.79 $1.05
95,001 or more services $50,000 per year $75,000 per year $100,000 per year

Late fees will remain unchanged. If assessed a late fee, a water system will pay an additional 10 percent or $25, whichever is greater.

We have estimated each water system's fee, based on the Water Facilities Inventory information available to us October 1, 2011. Click to see your estimated fee.

Pay your operating permit fees online

Click the link below and follow the instructions to register your account through Secure Access Washington (SAW).

Online Annual Invoice Permit Renewal Guide 331-688 (PDF)

Once you register your account, you will need your Owner Number to access your invoice. You will find it at the top right of your Annual Fee Statement. If you can't find your Owner Number or need help registering your account, contact Brian Wilson, 360-236-3042.

Satellite management agencies

The new fee structure provides a break to satellite management agencies (SMAs) for the systems they own. An SMA would only be charged a single $100 base fee to cover all the systems it owns, plus a per-connection fee based on the total number of connections for all systems. The online fee calculator will not work properly for SMAs that own multiple systems. Click for a listing of SMA fees (PDF). If you need help calculating your fee, contact Brian Wilson 360-236-3042

Systems managed but not owned by an SMA will pay the same fees as individual systems, and can look up their estimated fees with the online fee calculator.

Reducing the impact of the fee increase

We know this is a difficult time to increase fees. That's why we're phasing in these changes.

Phasing in the per-connection fee increase over a three-year period will allow water systems to budget for the fee increase over time.

In addition, we eliminated monitoring waiver fees for water quality testing from the Group A rule (WAC 246-290-990(1)(h)). The new revenue from operating permit fees will fund the costs of providing these waivers. Many systems will save hundreds of dollars each year by not paying this separate fee.

All Group A systems will pay a fee

Under the old fee structure, almost two-thirds of Group A water systems (about 2,700 systems) paid nothing or just $25 per year for their operating permit. These are the smallest Group A water systems, which often have the most challenges and create much of the demand on the state's time and resources. A recent report to the Legislature (PDF) showed that many small systems are not meeting basic water quality requirements, jeopardizing the public's health.

All Group A water systems will now pay a $100 base fee regardless of size. The additional revenue allows us to put more emphasis on technical assistance and compliance for small Group A water systems. This will help systems better assess and improve their capacity to deliver safe and reliable drinking water.

Improving the billing statement

We heard from water systems that the annual billing statement has not been clear enough. We made improvements so that your billing statement will be easier to understand.

Counting service connections

Water systems must report their service connections and population on the Water Facilities Inventory (WFI). We use this information to calculate operating permit fees and set monitoring and other regulatory requirements.

Community water systems

During the 2012 legislative session, we heard two major concerns from community water systems about our past method for counting service connections.

  1. "Not all systems report residential service connections the same way." We are working with systems to improve service connection reporting. Some water systems told us it is difficult for them to accurately count the number of dwelling units in multifamily housing and apartment buildings. Counting multifamily dwelling units describes methods some systems use to accurately report that information on their WFI.
  2. "Basing the fee on both residential connections and nonresidential populations leads to inequities." Under the old fee structure, people may have been counted twice: once as non-residential consumers and once as residents in their homes, leading to higher fees for water systems. Or, residential customers of water systems could have borne the costs of serving large numbers of consumers who don't live on the system (such as shoppers or employees).

To correct this problem, we changed the way we calculate the operating permit fee for community water systems by counting only the residential and commercial/business, institutional, and industrial connections reported on the WFI. In doing so, each dwelling unit counts as one residential service connection, even if that dwelling unit doesn't have its own separate service meter (for example, each mobile home in a mobile home park, and each apartment in an apartment building, counts as a residential service connection).

The fields on the WFI used in determining the total number of connections include:

25A – full time single family residences (this total should include mobile homes occupied full time)

25B – part time single family residences (this total should include mobile homes occupied part time)

26B – full time residential units in an apartment building, condo, duplex, and so forth

26C – part time residential units in an apartment building, condo, duplex, and so forth

27B – institutional, commercial/business, school, day care, industrial, and so forth

The total population served isn't used to calculate an operating permit fee for a community water system. However, it remains very important to accurately estimate the total residential and non-residential population served, and to report these totals on the WFI, to assure the appropriate population-based standards are applied (such as water quality monitoring and operator certification).

Non-community water systems

The operating permit fee is based on the populations reported on the WFI. The population is converted to equivalent service connections and then the fee is calculated. The fee calculation no longer includes any physical service connections reported on the WFI.

The fields on the WFI used in determining the population served include:

29A – full-time residential population

30A and 30B – part-time residential population

31A and 31B – temporary and transient users (non-residents with access to the water system less than 180 days per year)

32A and 32B – regular non-residential users (non-residents with access to the water system 180 or more days per year)

Changes to WFI reporting expectations

Beginning with the next update, we will no longer ask community water systems to report recreational services such as campsites, RV sites, hotel/motel units in field 27A on the WFI. Instead, community systems should report each campground, RV park, hotel, and motel as a commercial connection in field 27B.

Non-community water systems should continue to report their connections in the same manner as in the past.
Here is the portion of the revised WFI instructions describing our new expectations. A complete set of WFI instructions will be sent with each request for WFI update.

  • 27-A. RECREATIONAL SERVICES AND/OR TRANSIENT ACCOMMODATIONS. Call your regional office if you are unsure whether yours is a community or non-community system.
    • COMMUNITY SYSTEMS: Leave this field empty. Include in field 27B the actual number of RV parks, campgrounds, hotels, motels, etc. served.
    • NON-COMMUNITY SYSTEMS: Enter the actual number of RV sites, campsites, spigots, etc., and hotel/motel/overnight units that are served by the water system. Enter the corresponding non-residential population and use-days in rows #31A and #31B.
  • 27-B. INSTITUTIONAL, COMMERCIAL, OR INDUSTRIAL SERVICES.
    • COMMUNITY SYSTEMS: Enter the number of all service connections not used for residential purposes. Include RV parks, campgrounds, hotels, motels, etc. in your count of commercial connections. If you enter a number in this field, enter the corresponding non-resident population and use-days in rows #31A, 31B, #32A, and #32B.
    • NON-COMMUNITY SYSTEMS: Enter the number of all service connections not used for residential purposes and not otherwise accounted for in field 27A. If you enter a number in this field, enter the corresponding non-resident population and use-days in rows #31A, #31B, #32A, and #32B.

Please contact your regional WFI administrator if you have questions:

Southwest Region, Tumwater: Charese Gainor, 360-236-3045

Northwest Region, Kent: Krista Chavez, 253-395-6772

Eastern Region, Spokane Valley: Matt Hadorn, 509-329-2133

For more information