Excessive use charge FAQs
Southern Nevada is by far the driest metropolitan area in the United States. The Colorado River provides 90 percent of the community's water supply, and extreme drought conditions have reduced the river's flows by approximately 18 trillion gallons over the past two decades. As a result, Lake Mead water levels have declined more than 150 feet, and the reservoir is below 30 percent of its capacity. Nevada's allocation of Colorado River water, which by far is already the smallest of the states that use its flows, has been reduced by more than 8 billion gallons, and future cuts are likely.
Based on monthly water usage patterns, the highest 10 percent of residential customers use about 30 percent of all the water delivered to households. These heavy water users consume about the same amount of water as the most efficient 60 percent of households combined, regardless of property size.
While the average LVVWD customer has been very responsive to the community's call for water conservation by replacing grass, repairing leaks, and following the mandatory watering schedule, high-use customers have not taken action to conserve like so many others have.
Recognizing that water use patterns change with the seasons, the Excessive Use Charge thresholds change seasonally to correspond with watering restrictions. The threshold is higher in summer and lower in winter to account for variations in water use throughout the year. Customers whose water use surpasses these seasonal thresholds are charged an additional $9 per 1,000 gallons to encourage conservation. The thresholds may vary, depending on number of days in the billing period.
|approx. 14,000 gallons||approx. 16,000 gallons||approx. 28,000 gallons||approx. 26,000 gallons|
Based on a 30-day billing period
The Excessive Use Charge thresholds are based on an average daily use calculation that corresponds with each season. The average daily use for each season is simply multiplied by the number of days in the billing period to determine the thresholds. A 28-day billing period will have a lower Excessive Use Charge threshold than a 33-day billing period. The table below highlights how the number of days billed influences the Excessive Use Charge thresholds.
Nov 1-Feb 28
Mar 1 – Apr 30
May 1 – Aug 31
Sep. 1 – Oct. 31
|Average Daily Use||470 gallons||530 gallons||930 gallons||870 gallons|
|Days in Billing Cycle||Excessive Use Thresholds per Billing Days (in Gallons)|
In billing periods where the thresholds transition between seasons, such as August to September or April to May, the two seasonal thresholds will be applied to the customer's bill, and the average daily use could surpass the excessive use threshold in one of those billing period months. As a result, the Excessive Use Charge may be triggered by water use during that portion of the billing period.
The Excessive Use Charge encourages conservation, making high-water users more aware of their monthly water usage. While customers can continue to use all the water they need, extremely high-water usage costs more. The highest-using 10 percent of residential households account for more than 13 billion gallons annually. That's nearly one-third of all water demands within the residential sector being generated by about 35,000 high-use households, and outreach to these customers has had very little impact on their water-use behavior. The Excessive Use Charge is proving an effective measure to help manage water demands, as water use is decreasing among the highest water users each billing period.
The Excessive Use Charge thresholds are based upon an analysis of water use among more than 360,000 residential customers. Given that the top 10 percent of households represent nearly 30 percent of residential demand, analysts calculated the Excessive Use thresholds so 90 percent of households – those with monthly usage below the threshold – would not be affected. Because the usage patterns conform to the mandatory seasonal watering schedule, separate thresholds were established for spring, summer, fall and winter. The thresholds are set at more than twice the median residential use for each season.
Based upon the monthly thresholds, customers can use 252,000 gallons annually without incurring the Excessive Use Charge. However, it should be noted that the season in which the water is used matters. Given our climate, water use in August is expected to be significantly higher than in February, and the Excessive Use Charge thresholds allow for seasonal variability. The Excessive Use Charge is designed to encourage water efficiency and curb disproportionately high water use each season.
The average customer is not affected at all. In fact, about 90 percent of all households each month never incur an Excessive Use Charge. Unlike a traditional rate increase, the Excessive Use Charge was designed for that small percentage of residential customers who use an inordinate amount of water in the monthly billing period.
Most people are shocked to learn how little water they use indoors. On a monthly basis, the typical household (three to four people) uses about 4,000 or 5,000 gallons indoors. Even accounting for four or five additional people in the household, it is highly unusual for indoor water use to surpass 5,000 gallons, even with the extra showers, dishes and laundry.
It is impossible for a household to reach the Excessive Use Charge thresholds based solely upon their indoor use unless there is a significant leak at the property. To address that potential issue, the LVVWD has initiated a notification program to quickly alert customers to potential leaks. To receive these notifications, sign up for My Account and easily confirm and update current mobile phone and email contact information.
Yes. Current data indicate that many high-use customers are responding to the pricing signal. More than 50 percent of customers that received an Excessive Use Charge received it for only one or two billing periods, indicating that they reduced their usage. As designed, the Excessive Use Charge is proving an effective measure to manage the water demands of high users, as water use is declining among this customer group.
Before implementing the Excessive Use Charge, the LVVWD analyzed water use among large residential properties to determine whether high water use was inevitable. Even with the larger footprint available for landscaping, the median water use among half-acre properties is 145,000 gallons — well below the 252,000 gallons allowed under the Excessive Use Charge thresholds. In fact, about 80 percent of large lots do not currently surpass the thresholds, so the Excessive Use Charge typically reaches only the highest-using 20 percent of customers with large lots.
Customers on large lots with climate-appropriate, efficiently irrigated landscapes are not likely to be affected by the Excessive Use Charge, even accounting for mature trees and other vegetation. On the other hand, a small number of customers with those same sized lots use an inordinate amount of water. It would be unreasonable to increase thresholds simply to accommodate those who chose to maintain large-scale landscapes that are incompatible with our local desert environment.
Trees are naturally adapted to slow, deep watering that supports downward root growth. Watering trees and plants with drip irrigation provides an efficient and effective method to achieve deep healthy trees and plant roots.
Trees planted within grass areas and watered by spray irrigation generally have very shallow roots. By design, spray irrigation systems irrigate to a depth of only about two inches. This forces tree roots to the surface, making the tree more susceptible to damage, pests and toppling in high winds.
The key to maintaining tree health during a grass conversion project is creating an array of drip emitters that irrigate the entire root zone, not just the area around the trunk. There are specific tree irrigation systems designed expressly for that purpose; do-it-yourselfers can also easily create such a drip array.
The LVVWD and SNWA strongly advocate for trees because their shade-producing canopy is far more effective at reducing heat gain than the evapotranspiration produced by grass. For customers concerned about the effects of removing grass from around trees on their health, the SNWA has partnered with the Nevada Division of Forestry and the Southern Nevada Arborist Group to develop guidance materials to protect trees during the transition. This information is available at snwa.com.
The Excessive Use Charge is not related to the state law, although it will likely have the effect of reducing the number of customers subject to the law's provisions. AB220 simply provides emergency authorization for local water agencies to enact restrictions on high water users under extreme water supply conditions. The SNWA is undertaking significant efforts to prevent those conditions from occurring.
While no decisions have been made to implement a half-acre-foot water use limit, ongoing water conservation strategies, like the Excessive Use Charge, help the community adapt to using less water. The SNWA anticipates a mix of pricing, policy, and proactive public communication to be included in the implementation process should provisions of the law need to be exercised.
Most likely, but not exclusively, this is due to a leak on your property or over-watering your landscape. Customers who receive an Excessive Use Charge on their monthly water bill are in the top 10 percent of water users for that billing period. Water used outdoors represents the bulk of any residential water use.
There are simple steps you can take to manage your water use. First, check your irrigation system. Verify the settings on your irrigation clock and make sure the run times for each watering cycle are appropriate. Confirm the A, B and C programs to ensure there are no other run times set. Inspect your irrigation system for proper operation. Look for leaks around your property. Leaks are a common reason why households might receive an unexpected Excessive Use Charge. The LVVWD has a series of short videos to help you find possible leaks.