Wastewater Finance Facts

User fees cover all expenses

Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) operates the regional wastewater collection and treatment system (also called the Metropolitan Disposal System) for the seven-county metro area. Every home, business and industry that does not use an individual septic system is connected to the regional system.

User fees cover the entire cost of wastewater operations as well as the cost to maintain, replace and upgrade the physical infrastructure of the system.

Treatment system supports region’s livability, prosperity

The Metropolitan Disposal System serves about 2.7 million people. The system consists of:

  • More than 600 miles of interceptor pipes, up to 14 feet in diameter, that collect wastewater from more than 5,000 miles of sewer pipes owned by cities and townships.

  • 61 lift stations that pump flow to treatment plants where gravity isn't sufficient because of land elevation changes.

  • 206 metering stations that help determine each community’s share of regional costs.

    2016 wastewater revenue sources
  • 21 rain gauge stations.

  • 8 wastewater treatment plants.

Three major sources of revenue

MCES revenue comes from three types of user fees:

  • Municipal wastewater charges
  • Industrial charges
  • Sewer availability charges (SAC)

Municipal wastewater charges

In 2018, MCES collected close to $219.8 million in municipal wastewater charges from the 109 communities served by the regional system. MCES municipal charges are very competitive. Nationally, our rates are well below average for similar-sized (large) agencies, according to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

‚ÄčEach community pays an allocated portion of the total municipal wastewater charge based on the volume of wastewater MCES treats from the community in the previous calendar year. Most communities cover their local sewer costs by charging a higher “retail” rate to residents and businesses. Learn more about municipal wastewater charges.

Industrial charges

MCES charges industrial customers to cover the cost of wastewater monitoring, treating higher strength discharges, and other costs. The charges are made in a variety of forms:
  • Annual permit fees
  • Strength charges for wastewater that has higher treatment costs than typical residential wastewater
  • Fees to liquid waste haulers who dispose of septage, leachate, and other hauled wastes directly into the regional wastewater system
  • Other fees
In total, MCES collected about $13.7 million from industrial charges in 2018.

Sewer Availability Charge (SAC)

When we extend new sewer pipes into growing areas, or rehabilitate or replace aging pipes in older communities, we build enough capacity in those pipes to handle future growth. This is called reserve capacity.

SAC is a one-time fee we bill local governments for use of the reserve capacity in the Metropolitan Disposal System. We charge SAC whenever a new property is built or an existing property renovation/remodel causes increased capacity demand. SAC pays for the reserve capacity through capital or debt service payments associated only with the reserve capacity portion of the system. 

Local governments may also charge, on top of the MCES SAC fee, a local SAC or add-on fee for capacity in the local sewer system.

One SAC is based on 274 gallons per day of potential capacity. It is not based on actual or expected usage. Low usage benefits are realized through low monthly treatment bills. Instead, SAC is based on the capacity needed for wastewater to flow effectively under maximum potential usage.

In 2018, MCES used $41.9 million from SAC revenues to support capital expenses and debt service associated with providing needed reserve capacity in the regional wastewater system. Learn more about SAC.

More information about MCES Funding & Finance.