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Frequently Asked Questions

 

DISTRICT GOVERNMENT AND SERVICE AREA

  • Is the District part of the Town of Portsmouth Government?

No. The Portsmouth Water and Fire District is a quasi-municipal, governmental agency created in 1952 by act of the Rhode Island General Assembly.  The District was created to obtain and maintain for the District a supply of water for the extinguishing of fire and for distribution to the inhabitants of the District for domestic use and for other purposes.

  • Who governs the District?

The District is governed by a seven-member Administrative Board, which is elected by the registered voters within the District.  The District holds an annual election of officers on the second Wednesday in June.  The Administrative Board meets on the third Tuesday of every month at 7:00 PM at the District’s main office.

  • What area does the District service?

The District services all of Portsmouth that is located on Aquidneck Island, exclusive of the Redwood Farms, Bay View, Raytheon and Melville areas.

BILLS AND RATES

  • Why do I get two different bills from the Portsmouth Water and Fire District?

The bill with the bar graph is a quarterly Water Service Bill, which is for your water usage charges.  The bill that shows DISTRICT TAX BILL is for your annual Water District Property Taxes.

  • When are the water and tax bills mailed?

The Water Service Bill is mailed quarterly and is due in 30-days.  The District bills one-third of its water customers every month based on the following cycles (check your bill to see what cycle you are in):

Cycle 1 May 1 August 1 November 1 February 1
Cycle 2 June 1 September 1 December 1 March 1
Cycle 3 July 1 October 1 January 1 April 1
Cycle 4 July 1 October 1 January 1 April 1

The Water District Property Tax bill is mailed in mid-October and is due on December 1.

  • What are the District’s water rates?

The current quarterly water rates are as follows:

GALLONS FY-18 RATES
(May 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018)
1,000 to 5,000 $7.28 per thousand gallons
Over 5,000 $10.71 per thousand gallons
Drinking Water Protection Act Surcharge $0.292 per thousand gallons
  • How can Senior Citizens apply for an exemption from the Rhode Island Drinking Water Protection (RIDWP) Act Surcharge?

Exemptions from the RIDWP Surcharge are permitted for owner-occupied households where the owner of record of the dwelling is 65 years of age or older. The water account is required to be in the name of the owner that is 65 years of age or older. Application for exemption may be made at the Portsmouth Water and Fire District’s main office.

  • What is the District’s tax rate?

The current District tax rate is $0.22 per thousand of assessed property value.  Your assessed property value, as determined by the Town of Portsmouth Tax Assessor, is used to calculate your Water District Tax.

  • Why is my property taxed by the Portsmouth Water and Fire District?

Like most other water and fire districts in Rhode Island, the Portsmouth Water and Fire District has been granted taxing authority by the RI General Assembly to be used as necessary to create, operate and maintain a water supply system to supply water for domestic use and fire protection within the District.

While the property taxes provide only thirteen (13%) percent of the District’s total annual revenue, the tax is an important component of the District’s fiscal management plan and equitable rate making strategy.  The rational for maintain a District property tax is:

  1. Bonding – Tax revenue allows the District to obtain capital funding through general obligation bonds. These bonds can provide a lower interest rate and can have lower bonding costs than revenue bonds, which are supported by variable water sales and would otherwise be required without tax revenue.   General obligation bonds supported by taxes can usually be obtained in a quicker time frame than revenue bonds, which require a detailed, pro forma financial analysis due to the variable nature of water sales revenue.  The speed with which capital financing can be obtained is particularly important during a catastrophic emergency when public health and safety is paramount.
  2. Revenue Stability – Water sales revenue is significantly influenced by weather, whereas predictable tax revenue provides an element of stability to the District’s total annual revenue stream. The guaranteed tax revenue helps dampen the impacts of the variable nature of water sales, and results in more accurate budgeting and water rate stability from year to year.
  3. Rate Fairness – All properties within the District benefit from the public water system, whether or not they are water customers. The extensive system of pumps, tanks, pipes and fire hydrants provide water for fire protection throughout the District to all properties.  In addition, undeveloped property values are positively impacted by the presence of the water system throughout the District and by the potential to connect existing and future subdivided property to the existing system. Without the property tax, which is assessed to all properties within the District whether or not the properties receive water service, our water ratepayers would be unfairly subsidizing the benefits received by the non-water using property owners.
  • Can I pay my bills at the Portsmouth Town Hall?

No. the District is not part of Portsmouth town government and the town cannot accept payments for the District, nor can the District accept Town of Portsmouth payments.

  • How can I pay my bills?

The Water Service bill and the Water District Property Taxes bill can be paid in the following manner:

By Mail:
Portsmouth Water and Fire District
P.O. Box 99
Portsmouth, RI  02871

In Person:
Portsmouth Water and Fire District
1944 East Main Road
Portsmouth, Rhode Island
Monday through Friday 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

After Hours:
A payment slot is available 24/7 on the outside of the front door at 1944 East Main Road

On-line:
Go to PortsmouthWater.org and click on PAY MY BILL

  • Can I pay my bills by a checking account draft or credit card?

Yes! Go to PortsmouthWater.org and click on PAY MY BILL, which will take you to the District’s Web Portal. Once you create an account you can pay your bill using the following methods:

  1. ACH recurring checking account draft
  2. Credit/Debit Card one-time payment
  3. Credit/Debit Card recurring payment 
  • What else does the Web Portal offer?

In addition to paying your bills online, on the Web Portal you can also do the following:

  1. View and print your latest water or tax bill
  2. View your water usage history
  3. View your billing history
  4. View your payment history
  5. Elect to receive e-billing 
  • Can the water account be listed in the name of the tenant?

No.  All water service accounts must be listed in the name of the property owner.

  •  Can Portsmouth Water provide a final water bill for a house sale?

Yes, Portsmouth Water will read the water meter and provide a mid-cycle final water bill based on a request made at least three business days in advance of a specific date.  There is a $33.50 charge for the mid-cycle final water bill, which is charged to the current owner’s water account.

  • What is the average residential water consumption?

The water use of a household depends on the number of family members residing in the house, the ages of the family members, how water is used for lawn and garden irrigation, etc., so it is difficult to come up with an average that is relevant to each customer.  However, we can tell you that the average annual consumption for residential customers for the entire water system is approximately 45,000 gallons.  Nonetheless, it is not unusual to see residential customers with an annual water use as low as 20,000 gallons or as high as 200,000 gallons, depending on the circumstances of the household.

WATER SOURCE AND QUALITY

  • Where does my water come from?

The water supplied by the District is purchased on a wholesale basis from the City of Newport Water Department.  The Newport Water Department treats the water at their Lawton Valley Treatment Plant located on West Main Road in Portsmouth.  The raw water comes from the Lawton Valley Reservoir, St Mary’s Pond and Sisson Pond in Portsmouth, Nonquit Pond in Tiverton and Watson Pond in Little Compton.

  • Is there Fluoride in the water supplied by Portsmouth Water?

Yes.  The water has 0.7 mg/1 (or 0.7 ppm) of fluoride.

  • What is the hardness of the water?

The water hardness, which is measured as calcium carbonate, is as follows:

In Milligrams per Liter:  45 to 55
In Grains per Gallon:      2.6 to 3.2
Hardness Rating:             Soft

  • What causes my water to get discolored on occasion and what should I do about it?

Discolored water can result from a number of problems in the water treatment process and the water distribution system.

  1. Yellowish water usually indicates the presence of manganese, a metal naturally present in water. At times, the manganese cannot be completely removed by the treatment process and the manganese oxidizes in the water distribution system causing a yellowish tint in the water.
  2. Brown water normally indicates a disturbance in the water distribution system caused by a water main break or a fire hydrant being opened. The District annually flushes the water system at night to remove sediment and to prevent discolored water during normal operations.
  3. If your water is discolored, you should contact the District immediately to report the problem. This will allow the District to investigate the problem, if it has not already done so, and advise you of any action you should take.
  • What should I do if my laundry is soiled by the discolored water?

If your clothes become discolored by our water, please contact the District immediately so that we can investigate the problem.  The District can provide you with a special laundry detergent that is made to remove discoloration caused by water quality problems.

WATER PRESSURE

  • What causes low water pressure and what can I do about it?

Water pressure is generally a function of the elevation of the property.  Properties at higher elevations will have lower pressure than properties at lower elevations.  Low pressure problems can develop from many different circumstances:

  1. The pressure reducing valve or water meter can become clogged with sediment
  2. The water serviceline could become clogged by corrosion
  3. There could be a leak in the water serviceline. In addition to causing low pressure, the leak could damage your property.

If your water flow or pressure appears to be unsatisfactory, or if it appears to be lower than normal for your property, you should contact the District so that we can have a Water Distribution System Operator inspect the property and evaluate the potential problem.

  • Am I required to have a pressure reducing valve?

It depends on the location and elevation of the building being served.  Please refer to the General Requirements for Obtaining Water Service on this web site for more specific information.