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Seattle's water and sewer rates are among the highest in the nation

If you live in Seattle, and you think your water and sewer charges are high, you’re right.

That’s according to a new city-government audit of Seattle Public Utilities. The Seattle Times reports the audit cites an industry analysis that found Seattle paying the highest rates among 50 U.S. cities. 

The audit puts most of the blame on a 45-year, non-negotiable contract between the city and King County to provide waste-water treatment.

The report by Seattle Auditor David Jones notes that up to three-quarters of the $187 million S.P.U. collected from rate payers in 2009 went to King County.

One reason is cost over-runs on the county’s new Brightwater sewage-treatment plant.

Another is that there has been less-than-expected levels of development. That means fewer new customers to share the costs.

County officials say the fees they charge Seattle and 34 other municipalities are fair, considering the high cost of providing waste-water treatment services.

According to a 2010 analysis by consulting firm Black and Veatch, the highest water and sewer rates are paid by:

  1. Seattle
  2. Atlanta
  3. Honolulu
  4. San Diego

The lowest rates are paid in Memphis.

Liam Moriarty started with KPLU in 1996 as our freelance correspondent in the San Juan Islands. He’s been our full-time Environment Reporter since November, 2006. In between, Liam was News Director at Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon for three years and reported for a variety of radio, print and web news sources in the Northwest. He's covered a wide range of environment issues, from timber, salmon and orcas to oil spills, land use and global warming. Liam is an avid sea kayaker, cyclist and martial artist.