Tacoma Water Proposed Rate Increase from WestRock Closure

November 28, 2023 Update: The Tacoma Public Utility Board and City Council approved a rate adjustment of 5% due to WestRock’s closure that will go into effect January 1, 2024.

October 6, 2023 Update: On Wednesday Oct. 11, Tacoma Water staff presented proposed rate adjustment scenarios to the Public Utility Board for consideration. Members of the public were able to attend and provide comment or submit comments and questions online.

On Aug. 1, 2023, Atlanta-based packaging manufacturer WestRock Company announced they are closing their Tacoma paper mill effective Sept. 30, 2023. WestRock has been among Tacoma Public Utilities’ largest industrial customers for nearly a century, using around $25 million worth of power and water each year.

Tacoma Water Proposed Rate Increase from WestRock Closure.

The financial impact to Tacoma Water is greater than to Tacoma Power. Westrock’s usage accounted for approximately 1/3 of overall daily use of our water, equal to the water use of more than 100,000 homes and a significant revenue loss for the water utility.

Tacoma Water has a robust source of water, a best-in-class distribution system, and a strong financial position with plans to use reserves near-term to minimize future rate increases. To maintain that strength, immediate action will be necessary to mitigate impacts to our water utility from the unprecedented loss of this significant customer.

In response, our staff is reviewing ways to increase revenue from other sources and reduce costs by potentially delaying capital projects that will ease, but not eliminate, immediate cost pressures.

While the system will no longer have this large water demand on it, the infrastructure (pipes, filtration plant, reservoirs, water resources) used to serve WestRock and all other Tacoma Water customers will continue to require maintenance. There will be limited ability to remove segments of the system from service to reduce costs. These fixed cost assets are critical to our ability to reliably deliver clean, healthy drinking water to all customers.

As a not-for-profit utility, our rates only cover our cost to provide clean, reliable drinking water. To maintain our system and ensure we can continue providing some of the cleanest, healthiest drinking water in the nation, we will need to compensate for the loss of expected revenue by proposing drinking water rate increases. During fall 2023, staff will provide rate increase scenarios to policy makers for consideration. All proposed rate increases go through a public process and require Public Utility Board and Tacoma City Council approval.

For our income-constrained customers, we are proactively increasing the amount available in our Bill Credit Assistance Program to mitigate the impact of any proposed WestRock-related water rate increase.

Read Frequently Asked Questions

Tacoma Water Proposed Rate Increase Public Presentations to Policymakers:

Neighborhood and Community Meetings

  • Sept. 18 – Eastside Neighborhood Council
  • Oct. 2 – North End Neighborhood Council
  • Oct. 5 – Central Neighborhood Council

How you can get involved:

  • Read our budget and rates proposals online.
  • Attend our public meetings and outreach events.
  • Submit your questions and comments through our online form.
  • Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Downloadable fact sheets

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