Public Drinking Water Branch

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:

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:

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?
The fee “sunsets” every five years and can be renewed only by the legislature.  In 2006, House Bill 1149 increased the drinking water primacy fee and extended the fee. The fee is currently set to expire Sept. 1, 2017, unless it is renewed.  If the sunset date is not removed or extended in RSMo §640.100.8, then Missouri’s resources 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