Understanding your Bill

opens in a new windowUtility Bill Explanation – PDF

Top of Utility BillThe contact information for the City of Columbia Utilities billing office is located at the top of the first page of your utility bill. You can pay your bill online, by phone, at the drive-thru or drop box behind City Hall.  Our office is located on the first floor of City Hall.

If you are paying your bill on the due date, please use the drive-thru or pay at the cashiers’ office. Convenience fees do apply to payments made by phone or through the City’s website. 

Front page: overview of electric and water usage

Utility Bill page 1, electric and water usage chart

The current meter reading (2) is subtracted from the previous meter reading (1) to calculate the usage (3) for the billing period. (4)The days in a billing cycle can vary according to the meter reading cycle. (5) Electric usage is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). A residential electric customer uses on average 805 kWh a month. (6) Water is measured in Hundred Cubic Feet or CCF. There are approximately 748 gallons per 1 CCF. A residential water customer uses an average 6 hundred cubic feet (CCF) each month.

The weather can make a huge difference in your electric usage. Leaks and irrigation can run up your water bill. 
See  opens in a new windowColumbia Water & Light’s efficiency website to get free tips and incentives to be more efficient. 

Utility bill page 1, historical electric usage graph

(7) The previous 24 months of your electric usage, measured in kWh, is shown on a graph. You can use this information to follow how weather patterns, energy efficiency upgrades and your habits impact your bill.

Utility bill page 1, historical water usage graph

(8) The previous 24 months of your water usage, measured in Cubic Hundred Feet (CCF), is shown on a graph. Tracking water usage will help you determine if there are water leaks and/or how much water you are using on irrigation in the summer months.

Back page: details on charges

Utility page 2, electric charge details

(9) Electricity is charged on a tiered system, which is now itemized. When a customer’s usage hits a certain threshold (300 kWh is the first one) they are bumped into a higher-rate tier. The tier system is not new; only the itemization of it on the bills is new. Tiered rates encourage efficiency and help recover costs associated with the infrastructure needed to supply higher consumption amounts, particularly during the summer months. There are different electric rates for summer and for winter. The new bill format shows the tiers used to figure your bill and the rate for each.

Large commercial customers also pay an electric demand fee because demanding a large amount of electricity all at once goes into the cost to provide electric service.


(10) By City Charter, the water and electric utilities are required to collect Payment-in-Lieu-of-Tax (PILOT), an amount equal to the taxes that would be charged for utilities if the utility were privately owned. These funds are transferred to the City of Columbia General Fund and are used for police, fire and other services provided by the General Fund.

(11) Sales tax is applied according to the utility billing amount for electricity and water.

Utility bill page 2, details on water charges

(12) During the summer months, water is charged on a tiered system, which is now itemized. Water usage is measured in hundred cubic feet (CCF). There are approximately 748 gallons per one CCF.

(13) The State Regulatory Fee is a set charge for water testing by the Department of Natural Resources.

(14) The Fire Flow Charge is an additional charge to cover the cost of providing water for public fire protection. The charge is based on meter size.

Utility bill page 2, irrigation backflow charge details

(15) If you have an irrigation system, you are required to have a backflow protection device. Without one, a drop in the city’s water pressure could cause water in your irrigation system to be siphoned into the city’s drinking water system. Most commercial and industrial customers are required to have backflow devices in specific locations. State regulations require the water utility to maintain records on all backflow devices in the system and report information annually. The fee is collected to pay for the administrative costs of tracking and reporting these devices.

Utility bill page 2, sewer charge details

(16) Sewer is a non-metered service that is billed every 30 days or twelve times a year. There is a base charge each billing period to be connected to the system.

(17) State Sanitary Sewer Permit Fees are collected to cover the costs of the State of Missouri charges.

(18) The volume rate (flow charge) you pay is based upon your water consumption or information provided by other water utilities, if you are not a Columbia water customer. Monthly charges for residential customers are based on the average monthly billing of water usage from November through March. For commercial and master meter customers, charges are based on the water used each month.

Utility Bill page 2, stormwater charge details

(19) Storm water is a non-metered service that is billed every 30 days or twelve times a year. The charges are based on the square footage of buildings or other impervious surfaces where rain water cannot be absorbed by the ground. Some commercial customers will see a zero charge as information that the owner of the property is paying the storm water fee.

Utility bill page 2, solid waste charge details

(20) Trash or solid waste is a non-metered service that is billed every 30 days or twelve times a year. Charges for refuse depend on the type of solid waste pick up the customer receives. For example, there are different rates for bag pick up versus facilities with dumpsters.

Utility bill page 2, misc charge details

(21) Miscellaneous charges you may see on your bill include: service deposits, voluntary charitable contributions (CASH, HELP and Share the Light), major appliance pick-up, etc.

Utility rates

  • Money collected by the utilities is kept separate from other city revenue.  Most of the utilities have a base charge for being connected to the system, regardless of usage.  For example, meter reading and billing costs are paid through the base charge.
  • See opens in a new windowChapter 12, opens in a new windowChapter 22 and opens in a new windowChapter 27 of the City Code of Ordinances for more detailed information on exact charges. The Columbia City Council sets the rates for the utilities.

Stormwater Utility

Solid Waste Utility

Sewer Utility 

opens in a new windowElectric Utility

opens in a new windowWater Utility