About Brookline

Massachusetts

Brookline Water Rates and Homeowners Living Alone

In FY2012, Brookline added a base fee to the Water and Sewer charges for property owners. Previously, owners paid only for the water they used. Now, they pay a base fee of at least $60/quarter ($240 annually) before the first drop of water is received. For many owners, this is inconsequential because the first seven hcf (hundred cubic feet) of usage is highly discounted to offset the base fee.

For homeowners living alone in single-family homes, however, their bills have doubled because the average person consumes only three hcf of water per quarter. Prior to the rate shift, the bill for three hcf was $35.40. In the next quarter, the same amount of water cost $65.00 (the base fee was $50 then). In FY2018, the cost was $78.30, an increase of 121%. For someone using seven hcf (the level at which the base rate is fully offset), the bill prior to the rate shift was $82.60. In the next quarter, it was $85.00 and in FY2018 was $102.70, an increase of only 24%. A consequence of the large base fee is that each water customer essentially pays for two persons-worth of water whether or not it is used.

This does not affect individual apartment dwellers or condo owners because water meters are usually installed per building. Large buildings may have a slightly larger base fee but it is shared among all building residents. The whole building consumes more than seven hcf so there is no penalty for individuals.

The rate change unfairly burdens a small group of property owners — those living alone in single-family homes. Many are probably seniors so the revised water structure creates a senior penalty. It also affects households who spend significant time away since they must still pay for about two persons-worth of water. Many of these too are probably seniors who spend the winter elsewhere.

This chart shows that Brookline's water rates are in line with other communities above seven hcf. Below seven, however, the cost doesn't decrease much due to the overwhelming effect of the large base fee. At the low end, Brookline is literally out of line with other communities.

Table 1 shows the effect of the base fee on two and one person water accounts with modest use (three hcf per person). With no base fee, the cost for one person is 50% less than two. With a modest base fee, the reduction is around 40%. With Brookline's large base fee, the reduction is only 19%. An individual water consumer pays almost as much as two people.

Table 1: Water Rates — Two vs. One Person
Municipality Two (6 hcf) One (3 hcf) Reduction
Arlington $73.43 $42.09 43%
Belmont 155.49 97.17 38%
Boston 74.66 37.33 50%
Brookline 96.60 78.30 19%
Cambridge 84.12 42.06 50%
Concord 99.42 49.71 50%
Needham 95.52 59.76 37%
Newton 102.90 51.45 50%
Somerville 116.70 80.85 31%
Waltham 51.18 25.59 50%
Watertown 83.43 45.15 46%
Wellesley 95.11 59.79 37%

Table 2 provides the quarterly FY2018 Water and Sewer rates for small homes (5/8" connection and low quarterly use) for Brookline and eleven nearby communities.

Table 2: FY2018 Water & Sewer Rates for Small Homes (Quarterly)
Tier 1Tier 2
Municipality Base Water Sewer HCF Limit Water Sewer HCF Limit
Arlington $10.71 $4.75 $5.71 15 $5.08 $6.10 30
Belmont 38.85 6.53 12.91 30 7.49 12.91 -
Boston 5.16 7.29 17.29 5.40 7.51 35.49
Brookline 60.00 1.90 4.20 7 5.55 8.50 -
Cambridge 3.02 11.00 10 3.24 11.63 100
Concord 5.16 11.41 36 10.84 11.41 72
Needham 24.00 3.10 8.82 6 3.40 9.64 27
Newton 6.60 10.55 10 7.60 12.30 25
Somerville 45.00 4.14 7.81 13 5.97 9.97 67
Waltham 3.07 5.46 7 4.15 7.13 15
Watertown 6.87 4.48 8.28 30 6.96 10.70 300
Wellesley 24.99 2.99 8.61 5 3.51 8.61 12

Water rates were obtained from the following web pages in July 2018: Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Concord, Needham, Newton, Somerville, Waltham, Watertown, Wellesley. Rates in effect at the beginning of the year were used. All rates have been adjusted to be quarterly. Some pages are dynamic and may show later current rates when viewed after July 2018.