With Stage Four Drought Restrictions in effect, Wichita Falls residents who use a lot of water in their homes will end up paying the price.
The average household water consumption in the city is 7 units which equals about 5,200 gallons per month. (1 unit = approx. 748 gallons) But if a household uses over 10 units of water in a month, the surcharge will triple. This threshold which is about 7,500 gallons was decided through a study that the city conducted.
"It was based off of the average family size which would be a typical family of four. Now that it has gone into Stage 4, they're not going to lower the limitation of 10. The studies showed 7 so the city and city council decided that 10 was a good maximum for most people," said Wichita Falls Customer Account Analyst Azura Kerr.
The drought situation has become so severe, that the city had no choice but to implement this new rule.
"It's very frustrating, it's very confusing. I do get it. Unfortunately, we're in a situation where we have to implement these rules," said Kerr.
Most households are not expected to use above 10 units of water. But the city's hopes are that residents will put more effort into conserving to keep from paying the extra surcharge.
Residents will be charged an additional $3.00 for each unit over 10 units. Each unit over 20 units will cost $6.00, and each unit over 30 units will cost $12.00.
The surcharge will be depicted by a WR sign and a dollar amount on the left hand column on the city water bill.
If an average household is going over 10 units, a leak may be the cause. Checking for leaks is simple and to avoid the extra charges, residents should also keep a close eye on the water meter to see how much water has been used.
"On the water meter, you need to make sure you're only looking at the numbers in white. The last two numbers in black do not count. They're just there to kind of estimate the gallon usage. When the black numbers roll, it means you've used a complete consumption," said Kerr.
Kerr states for residents who have used over 10 units and cannot pay the extra surcharge, the city is going to do the best it can to work with each individual situation.
"We haven't really discussed guidelines because we haven't had that effect yet. We don't know what's going to happen or if someone is going to walk in to the office with a $500 water bill. We just don't know. It's going to be one of those things when we get there we have to figure it out," she said.
The money collected from the extra surcharge will be put back into the water-sewer fund for the city. Officials will use that money to improve the water distribution and find effective ways to get more water into Wichita Falls.