Residents in the City of Fort Atkinson soon will see regular replacement of outdated water mains thanks to a rate increase, under a new financing approach, approved by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
The average residential bill will increase about $15 per month, providing more than $800,000 per year for main replacement. The municipality will be only the third utility in the state approved by the Commission to allow customers to directly pay for water main replacement and avoid the expense of borrowing.
In Fort Atkinson the Utility will replace just over 3,800 feet of main per year. The Fort Atkinson Water Utility, formed in 1901, includes more than 72 miles of main, an underground network of water supply. This network of underground pipes move water to meet daily demands of residents and businesses, and are a critical component of fire suppression.
Although some of the city’s water main was laid as early as 1908, these turn-of-the-century pipes are not an immediate concern — they are expected to last another 50 years. Most main breaks occur in pipes installed between 1944 and 1972.
These pipes had a flawed manufacturing process that reduced their useful life. Known as spun cast water mains, they comprise 25% (18 miles) of the pipe network across Fort Atkinson. Many of these throughout the city already have failed.
“Replacement of spun cast main has been sporadic due to inconsistent funding, with projects occurring in five of the last 12 years, with an average of just over 900 feet per year replaced,” said Andy Selle, director of Public Works, during testimony to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
A dedicated effort to replace this main is needed and a proactive approach to older, yet serviceable main will follow.
The city already has begun design for replacing 5,900 feet (1.1 miles) of spun cast water main on portions of Peterson, Gail, Adrian, Grove, Spry, Grant and Maple streets in 2022.
Federal grant funds will be combined with funds from the rate increase to accomplish a larger than average start to the main replacement program.
A more comprehensive description of the city’s rate case and the information provided to support the proposal to the Public Service Commission can be found at https://bit.ly/3hPBjVX.