Upgrading Florida’s Water and Wastewater
No Easy Task
Because it is essential to life, water is a vital resource. The issues surrounding
its allocation, use, cost, and conservation are even more pressing—and among the
more complicated our state will face in the coming years. It’s a big gulp to swallow
at one time, especially since consumer resistance to any rate increases have hit
water and wastewater utilities hard.
Determining the cost of water is our job at the Public Service Commission (PSC),
but Florida’s water-related issues involve many other agencies and local governments.
The 2012 Florida Legislature called for an 18-member “Study Committee on Investor-Owned
Water and Wastewater Utilities” to identify issues of concern and research possible
solutions, particularly for small systems and their customers. Its members—representing
a myriad of stakeholders responsible for water and wastewater systems and including
customer representatives—now have an excellent opportunity to research innovative
strategies that will strengthen Florida’s water industry.
Ultimately, good policy design will help with Florida’s water infrastructure and
move us toward utility rate structures that reflect the true cost of providing safe
and reliable drinking water to customers now and in the future.
Our nation’s drinking water infrastructure, with millions of miles of underground
pipes, needs an upgrade. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA)
Web site, “The drinking water treatment plants and distribution lines, sewer lines,
and storage facilities that we rely on for clean and safe water are aging, some
to the point of deterioration and even failure.” Last month, thousands of water
professionals met at the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) 131st Annual
Conference and Exposition, and heard one particular report that detailed why an
aging infrastructure is the “most pressing concern” of United States water and wastewater
So, how much will it cost to fix this problem? Every year the estimated price tag
for repairing the nation’s water infrastructure rises. According to the AWWA, estimated
funding needs for the remediation of the nation’s water infrastructure will total
more than $1 trillion nationwide between 2011 and 2035 and exceed $1.7 trillion
by 2050 (Journal AWWA: April 2012). If these remediation costs are to be
covered solely by the ratepayer, affordability will be a significant issue for most
customers and a challenge for regulators.
The PSC regulates privately owned water and wastewater utilities in counties where
the Board of County Commissioners has officially transferred jurisdiction to the
Commission. A county government in Florida has the option to regulate investor-owned
water and wastewater utilities, or choose to approve a resolution and transfer the
regulatory responsibilities to us. We now regulate more than 158 investor-owned
water and/or wastewater utilities in 36 counties, with jurisdiction over each utility’s
rates and charges, territorial authorization, and service.
To meet public health and environmental concerns, multiple state agencies are involved
in the regulation of water and wastewater service—including the Florida Department
of Environmental Protection, Florida’s five Water Management Districts, and the
Florida Department of Health. The PSC’s role is economic regulation. In addition
to setting rates that provide for a utility’s recovery of reasonable and prudently
incurred costs, the PSC continues to design rates and ratemaking policies that further
the goals of affordability, conservation, and investment in necessary infrastructure.
By setting reasonable water and wastewater rates, we can promote water use efficiency.
Accurate pricing also helps us avoid large rate increases in the future.
Those of us with water and wastewater oversight need to work together to find realistic
solutions to utilities’ infrastructure renewal and increased operational and maintenance
expense challenges. Investments required to meet new drinking water quality standards—adding
even more increases to customers’ bills—will have to be considered.
Public education will be important to raise awareness about needed infrastructure
renewal and its related increase in operating and maintenance expenses faced by
utilities and their customers. Consumers don’t usually think about paying for water
as a commodity because they view it as something they get when they turn on their
faucets. We have to change that way of thinking by bringing the infrastructure discussion
The Legislature’s plan is a good one to encourage dialogue and solutions among stakeholders
who are currently evaluating our state’s water infrastructure needs and costs. The
PSC looks forward to working with all stakeholders to develop an equitable resolution
to the challenge of funding water and wastewater infrastructure cost-effectively
to maintain the water and wastewater systems that are essential to our way of life.
There are five
ways to contact us:
Complete an online complaint form at www.floridapsc.com
Call our toll-free number, 800-342-3552
Fax information to us toll-free, 800-511-0809
Send a letter to: The Florida Public Service Commission
2540 Shumard Oak Blvd., Tallahassee,
PSC Commission Conferences are on August 2 and August 14 ♦ Commissioners will hear
from Florida Power & Light Company customers about its rate request at customer
service hearings in Miami and Miami Gardens on August 7 and in Plantation and Pembroke
Pines on August 8 ♦ The Commission will hold a Ten-Year Site Plan workshop on August
13 ♦ Commissioners will question Duke Energy executives on August 13 ♦ The Commission
will receive a status report on Progress Energy Florida's Crystal River Nuclear
Plant Unit 3 on August 13 ♦ The Commission will hold a technical hearing for FPL's
rate increase request on August 20 - August 31.
July Press Releases
Customer Meeting Set for Utilities, Inc. of Pennbrooke 7/16/2012
PSC Continues Renewable
Energy Growth with Power Purchase Contract Approval 7/17/2012
PSC Approves New Florida
City Gas Rate; Helps Customers Prepare for Storms 7/17/2012
PSC Denies Gulf Power Company's
Rate Reconsideration Request 7/17/2012
Rogers to Appear before
Florida Public Service Commission 7/17/2012
Notable FPSC Orders
Filed From July 1 - 31, 2012
Gulf Power Company
Docket No. 120001-EI
Order No. PSC-12-0342-PCO-EI
Granting Gulf's petition for a mid-course reduction in the customer fuel charge.
♦ ♦ ♦
Utilities, Inc. of Eagle Ridge
Docket No. 110153-SU
Order No. PSC-12-0346-FOF-SU
Approving stipulation and settlement agreement between Utilities, Inc. and the Office
of Public Counsel on the utility's application for increase in wastewater rates;
♦ ♦ ♦
Tampa Electric Company
Docket No. 120038-EI
Order No. PSC-12-0356-CO-EI
Consummating order making TECO's petition to modify its vegetation management plan
effective; closes docket.
♦ ♦ ♦
Aqua Utilities Florida, Inc.
Docket No. 120157-WS
Order No. PSC-12-0355-PCO-WS
Suspending AUF's tariff pending decision on its request to establish rates for each
residential wastewater-only rate band.
♦ ♦ ♦
Access Networks of Florida, LLC
Docket No. 120160-TX
Order No. PSC-12-0379-PAA-TX
Granting Certificate of Authority to Access Networks to provide local telecommunications
service; protest due 8/10/12.