How Water Rates Compare

December 2018 Watchdog

Water rates across Dickinson County have been increasing in the last few years as government requirements have tightened. Recent increased costs have resulted from the infestation of zebra mussels that could clog lake water intakes. It is hard to compare water rates because of varying rate structures. Most water rates are based on gallons used while one city (Estherville) bases their water rates on cubic feet. The easiest way to make a water rates comparison is to base all of the rates on the use of 10,000 gallons – the estimated water usage for a three month period. If you use more or less than 10,000 gallons your water bill will be different. Prior to July 1, 2018 water rates had a six percent Iowa Sales Tax plus a one percent Local Option city tax. After that date a six percent Iowa Water Excise Tax is added to your bill.

Our water suppliers include a mix of municipalities and rural water companies.  Within municipalities there are those with an independent elected board: Milford (MMU), Lake Park (LPMU), and Spencer (SMU) and those managed by a City Council. The two rural water districts use a combination of lake water purchased from the cities and well water. Osceola Rural Water Area 1 is the North end of West Lake Okoboji. Area 2 is rural areas of Dickinson County.

A key consideration in the lakes area is the capacity of the water plant that must be sized for the summer water usage, while many users do not use any water during other parts of the year. In order to compensate for cost of building extra summer capacity many water suppliers have a minimum usage fee. For a quick comparison see the basic chart on the next page. A more detailed comparison can be found on our website at

For Arnolds Park, Okoboji, Milford, Okoboji, Wahpeton, and West Okoboji the source of water is Lake West Okoboji.  The intake pipe and pumping station for Wahpeton is located near Manhattan Point. For Milford and West Okoboji the pumping station is in Maywood with the intake pipe just off shore. The City of Spirit uses a pumping station on the South Shore of Big Spirit Lake and a pumping station in the northern section of the City of Spirit Lake.

Central Water System supplies water to Arnolds Park and Okoboji from a pumping station and water tower behind the former Inn and a lake water intake pipe in front of Dixon Beach. Five years ago the Central Water System increased their capacity and improved water quality. The water quality was improved to keep pace with DNR and EPA requirements.

Twenty-seven years ago the City of Arnolds Park and Okoboji operating as the Central Water System entered into a contract with Iowa Lakes Regional Water to supply water. Twenty-two years ago the contract was amended to provide ILRW a capacity limit of 200,000 gallons per day

Two years later ILRW decided it wanted even more water from the Central Water System alleging they were entitled to more than their 200,000 gallons per day limit. The two cities felt there was a limit to how much water could be taken from the lake, so they refused the ILRW request. Not satisfied with the answer from the two cities ILRW sued them eight years ago for a higher water limit. The District Court ruled against ILRW, so they appealed that decision and lost their case on appeal. Now during summers ILRW is pushing their 200,000 gallons per day limit. This means high density housing developments in this area may have to find another source for their water.

City Water Suppliers

Quarterly Rate

Per 10,000 Gallons
Arnolds Park
$ 119.25
Lake Park
$ 107.50
$ 117.95
$ 123.55
$ 143.69
$ 136.00
Spirit Lake
$ 117.13
Spirit Lake Non-City (Orleans)
$ 171.08
$ 105.00
$ 139.35
West Okoboji
$ 176.00

Rural Water Systems

Osceola Rural Water Area 1
$ 224.37
Osceola Rural Water Area 2
$ 143.27
Iowa Lakes Regional Water
$ 220.25