Missouri's Drinking Water Primacy Fee

The state legislature enacted the Public Drinking Water Primacy Fee in 1992 to establish a dedicated funding source to support the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ efforts to ensure adequate water that is safe to drink.

The primacy fee provides funding necessary to implement the federal and state Safe Drinking Water Act regulations and maintain delegation of the federal public drinking water program. This delegation is called primacy, which means public drinking water systems are regulated by the state agency instead of the federal government.

The primacy fee provides many benefits to Missourians, including:

  • Reduces drinking water monitoring and laboratory costs. Monitoring is required by federal and state regulations. The primacy fee provides the state with funding to test and monitor drinking water from public water supply systems. Without the primacy fee, public water systems would be responsible for arranging and paying for testing and submitting the results to the department. State laboratory testing costs are typically much less than a water system would pay on the open market.
  • Reduces the drinking water monitoring cost of unnecessary chemical testing. The department completes vulnerability assessments within public water supply systems to determine which chemical contaminants would not pose a risk to a system. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not perform such assessments and would require public water systems to complete the full scope of monitoring, regardless of the system’s lack of vulnerability to the contaminant.  Historically, the department’s vulnerability assessments have reduced monitoring costs by about $6.5 million per year.
  • Provides local, state support to public water systems. Missouri’s public water systems are regulated at the state level rather than by federal EPA staff.  The department provides compliance and technical assistance to help water systems understand requirements and avoid noncompliance.
  • Provides federal grants to support drinking water protection and water infrastructure.  Having and maintaining primacy allows Missouri to receive annual federal grants that provides funding for 21-25 percent of public drinking water protection.  Additionally, primacy allows Missouri to receive the annual Drinking Water State Revolving Fund capitalization grant from EPA. The department distributes these funds as low-interest loans to public water systems to make capital improvements to their systems and provides funding to administer these loans.  The department also funds a variety of technical and financial assistance efforts to assist public water systems.  These include:  
    • Source water protection grants.
    • Abandoned well plugging grants.
    • Grants for engineering report services.
    • Research projects to help systems with drinking water contaminant issues.
    • Circuit riders who provide direct assistance to public water systems with leak detection, energy efficiency, certification and compliance issues.

Who pays the primacy fee and what efforts are supported by the fee?

Customers who receive drinking water from Missouri’s community public water systems pay the primacy fee, considered a user fee. The public water system collects the fee as part of their regular billing, either annually, quarterly or monthly. Two percent of the fee is retained by the water system to cover administrative costs for collecting the fee.  The remainder of the funds is used by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Public Drinking Water Branch. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services began receiving an appropriation from the public drinking water primacy fee in state fiscal year 2010 for their bacteriological work, which was previously funded by general revenue (about $455,000 annually).

The primacy fee provides funding for various activities, including:

  • Analysis of water samples – chemical, bacteriological, radionuclides and others.;
  • Construction authorizations, permits to dispense and engineering reviews.
  • Public notice coordination.
  • Consumer Confidence Report development and coordination.
  • Compliance and enforcement activities.
  • Inspections and sanitary surveys.
  • Technical assistance.
  • Data management, record keeping and reporting.
  • Rule development and implementation.
  • Emerging contaminant research.

How much do water system customers pay and how much does the fee generate?

Households pay from $1.08 to $3.24 annually (about the price of one liter of commercial bottled water).  The amount is based on the size of population served by the water system.  For customers with larger water meters (for example, businesses, industrial users, etc.), the fee generally ranges from $7.44 to $82.44 per meter annually, with a maximum of $500 per year. 

The fee generates $4.6 million annually and provides 43 percent of the funding needed to implement, administer and enforce public drinking water requirements that ensure safe drinking water is provided to the public. 

What are the consequences of the loss of primacy?

In 2006, House Bill 1149 increased the drinking water primacy fee. In 2014, the Missouri Legislature removed the “sunset” date for the fee in Senate Bill 642. The legislation also gave authority to the Safe Drinking Water Commission to revise the fee structure, which is set to expire August 28, 2024. If the fees outlined in RSMo §640.100.8 are insufficient, then Missouri’s resources will become insufficient to adequately administer, implement and enforce the public drinking water primacy program. In this case, EPA could withdraw Missouri’s primacy, requiring public water systems in Missouri to be directly regulated by EPA.

If EPA withdraws primacy delegation, federal funding for public drinking water protection would end.  This includes funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan program, grants and other assistance provided by the Department of Natural Resources. The department no longer would provide water analysis, which means water systems would be required to contract with and pay a lab to perform this service.  Additionally, technical and financial assistance provided to water systems by the department would be significantly curtailed or ended. 

The Drinking Water Primacy Fee:  What Does The Fee Do For You?, Fact Sheet--PUB2229

Oct. 11, 2011 - Drinking Water Primacy Fee meeting