University of Minnesota
Minnesota Technical Assistance Program

Understanding Your Water Use

You may be paying twice for the water you are using in your facility. First, you are paying for the water coming into your facility. Then you are paying for the water leaving your facility and going to your local treatment plant. Calculating these costs can help you better understand how much your facility is paying for water.

Once you have determined the cost of your water, it is time to start thinking about water conservation measures to save money and lower your impact. MnTAP offers a variety of resources including a fact sheet on water conservation tips that can help you start conserving water.

Determine the Volume of Water Being Used and Discharged

For facilities in the Twin Cities, the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) grants permits and monitors water use and discharge. MCES charges permitted industrial users a fee based on reporting frequency. Every three years, MCES reviews water use for permittees in to determine if service availability charge (SAC) fees need to be assessed. A SAC is a one-time fee based on new connections or increased volumes of wastewater. In 2010, one SAC unit (274 gallons of water per day) costs $2,100. Rather than imposing new fees immediately, MCES begins its SAC review one year prior to permit renewal and any new assessment. This allows companies to implement water conservation strategies to lessen the SAC impact.

Water access charges (WAC) or other municipal-impact or connection fees can also be assessed to companies in the Twin Cities area. These fees are assessed by communities in the Twin Cities area, are based on SAC, and add to the total cost of the water being used at your facility.

Lessen the Strength of Your Discharged Water

WaterThe wastewater fees of most publicly owned water treatment plants are based on the amount of waste in the discharged water, otherwise known as the strength of the water. Companies are subject to this fee if they have continuous or batch discharges or spills of high strength wastewater. The strength is determined by the following factors (the levels in parentheses indicate when they are considered high by MCES).

  • Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) is the amount of oxygen it takes to degrade organic matter.
  • Chemical oxygen demand (COD) is the amount of oxygen required to oxidize organic compounds (>500 milligrams per liter).
  • Total suspended solids (TSS) is the total amount of suspended materials (>250 milligrams per liter).

To estimate strength charges in the Twin Cities metro area, use the MCES Strength Charge Calculator.


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