By Terry Groover
Yukon water customers are in a bad news, good news situation.
The bad news: An increase in city water rates is likely.
The good news: It’s probably two years away, and then it will be based on factors that are beyond the city of Yukon’s control – Oklahoma City’s decision to initiate $2.2 billion in improvements to its water system infrastructure.
City Manager Jim Crosby said Yukon last raised its water rates in March 2016, and doesn’t plan any additional increases until Oklahoma City begins to raise its rates … likely in two years.
However, once the rate increases do begin, others likely will follow for the next few years.
“Many times, if you raise rates a small amount, cities can absorb that in your budget. When your rates go up 18, 20 percent, you can’t continually absorb that type of increase,” Crosby said.
Oklahoma City’s plan, Crosby said, is to raise rates 18 percent each the first and second year of the plan, and 20 percent the third year. Future rate increases would be determined after a study of the water system’s financial situation.
The money would be used to construct a new 72-inch water line from the Kiamichi River to McGee Creek to Lake Atoka and finally to Lake Stanley Draper, which provides 60 to 80 percent of Yukon’s water supply. The remainder of the town’s water supply comes from the city’s 15 wells.
Crosby said Yukon’s wells have sufficient water, but have levels of arsenic that are considered safe to drink, but are above the levels approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. So, Yukon blends its water with that purchased from Oklahoma City.
“We’re waiting on Oklahoma City, and I think their study is supposed to be done this fall. Normally, they come out with their rate increases in October. It would probably be two years before we would have to face any kind of rate increase. Hopefully, we won’t have to, but you just have to wait and see what happens,” Crosby said.
Yukon pays among the lowest rates for its water from Oklahoma City, considering that most of the area cities have other sources for water, such as lakes.
Yukon reserves 60 million gallons of water per month from Oklahoma City, and pays $1.56 per 1,000 gallons of water that is reserved. The city also pays 43 cents per 1,000 gallon for treated water, he said.
“We are one of their top purchasers of water.”
Crosby said Yukon’s future depends on water, so the city has few options other than buying from Oklahoma City.
“We’ve looked, studied and tried to find water, and haven’t been able to find anywhere and have it potable at a cost we can afford,” Crosby said. “Water isn’t going to get any cheaper.”
Yukon has about 8,900 customers, who pay an average $88.21 per month, including sewer and trash services.
Crosby said any rate increase would come after a local study, but likely wouldn’t be 20 percent because Yukon doesn’t buy all of its water from Oklahoma City.
“We feel we are comfortable for at least a couple of years. … We hope that is the case,” he said.