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Why Are Water Tap Fees So High: What Are Your Options

Why Are Water Tap Fees So High: What Are Your Options

Water tap fees can be a major line item on your construction budget. What is a water tap fee and what impacts the total cost?

Water tap fees can range from several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. These fees are largely determined by the size of the water line and your geography. The scarcity of water and the difficulty in delivering it can result in higher costs.

Water tap fees vary from city to city and county to county. Because of this variability, we can’t provide an exact cost for your project.

However, we can help explain where to find these costs, what they include, and potential alternatives!

Why Water Tap Fees Are So Expensive and Where to Find the Cost

Water tap fees are the one time cost to connect your residential home to the public water system. This is, unfortunately, a cost you will see during construction, but not if you purchase an existing home.

Well, as long as that home has water 😉

The total cost of your tap fee will depend on the size of the waterline coming into your house. Most houses will use a 3/4 inch line but you could go up to a 1-inch line. This will be driven by factors such as the number of bathrooms in the house, need for yard irrigation, etc…

Increasing the line size the extra 1/4 inch could cost thousands so its best to work with your contractor and plumber to determine what size works best for your project.

While larger lines may be more costly, the last thing you want to deal with inside the home is poor water pressure. Undersupplied homes can also deal with issues such as extreme drops in pressure while running a dishwasher or washing machine, or drastic temperature changes after flushing a toilet.

That latter if particularly unpleasant if you’re in the shower when someone flushes a toilet. Ouch!

To find the exact amount you will be required to pay you can search on your local water company’s website. This is most likely your city’s water district webpage.

If you cannot easily find it, you may need to make a phone call. Some cities have outdated webpages and tap fees are not something that is always posted on the homepage.

Unfortunately, the cost of tapping into these existing sources of water is NOT cheap.

This cost is driven by a number of factors.

  1. Reimbursement for the original cost of installing water supply lines and their supporting water sources.
  2. Administrative costs for reviewing construction requests to tap into these lines.
  3. On-going maintenance of the water supply lines and facilities.
  4. Scarcity of available water and difficulty in delivering it.

As you can probably guess from looking through these, there will be a large variations in this cost based on geography.

Relatively flat states with good water supplies such as Georgia or North Carolina may only cost around $1,000, whereas similarly sized homes in states like Colorado could cost $12,000.

As a dry state with mountainous terrain, the costs associated with obtaining and delivering water in Colorado are clearly higher than somewhere in the southeast by comparison.

What impacts the size of your water line?

  1. How many plumbing fixtures will be in your new home.
  2. How long is your new water main line?
  3. What will your rate of flow be?

Lets look into these factors below:

Water tap sizes are determined by first looking at what the existing static and residual pressures are in the area where the tap will be made. This information can be obtained from your local water jurisdiction and is measured from the nearest fire hydrant. 

Then, demand flow is calculated based on the number of fixtures or planned square footage of your home. 

Does all of this seem daunting yet? Well, don’t worry. You won’t need to calculate anything. Leave that to the professionals!

Your contractor will work with a plumber and the local water district to determine what will work best for your home and ensure it is up to your city or county’s code.

Other Common Questions Related to Water Tap Fees

1. What is the difference between a Tap Fee and an Impact Fee

A tap fee is a type of service fee that is charged to home builders/owners for connecting the public water line to their private plumbing.

An impact fee is charged to new development to offset new or increased demands on existing water and wastewater systems. These impact fees are used to fund expansion on the water and wastewater systems.

2. Are water tap fees covered in the construction cost?

Yes. Typically when your builder provides the total cost of construction it will include the fee for water taps. You will want to have this conversation with your home builder just to make sure.

Your home builder may ask you to confirm who owns the public water system to make sure you are working with the proper water district.

In certain, very lucky, circumstances, your water tap fees may have already been paid for. While it’s not common, we can all get our hopes up 😉

Is There Any Way Around Paying Water Tap Fees?

You may not have to pay water tap fees if they were previously paid for by a past home owner or a subdivisions development costs.

If water tap fees are too expensive you have one other option. You could opt to go with a well instead of connecting to public water.

How Much Do Wells Cost?

A well can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $12,000. The cost can range between $10 and $50 per foot depending on the difficulty of the terrain. This can be an alternative to tapping into your city or county’s public water system.

While these numbers may seem minor, some areas require VERY deep wells to reach water. So don’t immediately discount this as the “cheaper” option.

Aside from the initial installation cost, there will also be on-going maintenance as well.

Please know that drilling a well is not something you can do as a DIY project. Work with a professional and ensure your water quality is inspected before drinking.

Additionally, your city may have restrictions on where or how wells are drilled. Check with your city to ensure code compliance.

Well Water vs City Water

Well water has a direct line from the ground to your home. For this reason, it has less chemicals because it is less treated.

Many consumers also believe that well water tastes better than city water. However, this will be highly dependent on where you live and your own personal taste.

While city water often has more chemicals, these are a result of water sanitation measures. In other words, chemicals that were intentionally added to purify the water.

Even though city water does have more chemicals, it is still very safe to drink and is tested very frequently to ensure it is safe.

One thing that can impact the quality of your water, no matter if its well water or city water, is the condition of your pipes. If your pipes are corroded they could cause a buildup of lead or other contaminates into your water.

If you have a well, you will still need to test the water quality at least once a year.

You can find testing kits online to have shipped to you as a reminder to conduct the test.

In conclusion

Water tap fees can be expensive but the final amount will vary depending on your location and city requirements. A water tap fee is a one time service fee to connect private plumbing to your city’s public water district.

These fees are unavoidable with new home builds unless you decide to drill a private water well instead of having public water.

Make sure you discuss these fees with your home builder to determine exactly how much they will be and to ensure they are included in your construction budget.