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KC official calls for sewer, water rate increases
Kansas City's water chief Thursday called for significant rate increases for at least the next five years to tackle a huge maintenance backlog. Bernardo Garcia, director of the Water Services Department, told the City Council's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that sewer rates should rise 15 percent annually and water rates 10 percent annually over the next five years. Those are needed, he said, to pay for $3 billion worth of work to address old pipes, sewer overflows and thousands of leaks. If the council endorses the multiyear increases, the average sewer and water charge for a residential customer will increase from about $50 per month now to about $88 per month by 2015.


Failure to collect on water bills cost Philadelphia millions

Philadelphia's failure to collect water bills drained $132 million from city coffers last year, Controller Alan Butkovitz said yesterday. That's up $12 million from a year ago.
The delinquencies include residential and commercial accounts.  About $79 million of the total - nearly 60 percent - was overdue two years or more.  Delinquent payments helped force the city to raise water and sewer rates by a total of 47.4 percent from 2002 through 2010, and they will increase an additional 11.6 percent through 2012, he said. The average home bill is about $50.  Philadelphia Inquirer_12/10/09

California man wins refund of $5,500 water bill

A Glendale, Calif. man is getting a refund after getting billed $5,500 for allegedly using 1.5 million gallons of water at his home.  Glendale Water & Power decided Wednesday that Escott Norton owes just $350, though it says the meter reading was accurate. He'll be credited for about $2,800 in payments.  Norton's June bill claimed he used 1.5 million gallons over two months. That's more than the monthly usage at Glendale High School, which has 3,000 students. Norton fought the bill. He told the City Council he didn't use the water and there's no evidence it was stolen, went into storm drains or leaked into the ground. Utility General Manager Glenn Steiger says he doesn't know where the water went. San Jose Mercury News_11/6/09

Denver Water to hike rates 13% in Denver, 9.8% in suburbs
Denver Water will boost residential water bills by 13 percent in February and increase the amount customers outside the city pay by about 9.8 percent.  The Denver Board of Water Commissioners on Wednesday voted for the rate increase, which will help fund a 10-year capital-improvement plan that includes 300 projects and upgrades to the massive utility's infrastructure, parts of which date to before World War II.  Residential bills vary according to how much water is used per household, but the increase for typical Denver residents will amount to about $40 annually, or $3.30 a month; during the summer irrigation season, bills probably will increase about $12 a month.  Denver Post_10/29/09

Hollywood, Florida scales back water rate increases

Hollywood city commissioners scaled back increases for water rates on Wednesday, an about-face meant to rescue businesses whose bills went through the roof after officials boosted rates this summer. In June, commissioners approved a water and wastewater rate hike that translated to a noticeable increase for homeowners -- but a bigger wallop for water-intensive businesses such as hotels and coin laundries. Silver Coin Laundry Mat's monthly bill skyrocketed from about $2,344 to $4,359 when the rates increased, city officials said. Under the new rate structure, the bill will drop to $3,220. Wednesday, commissioners unanimously approved a new rate structure that still raises rates but at a lesser amount than previously approved. Commissioners are expected to ratify the vote Nov. 4. Commissioners said the city needs to raise rates to generate money to pay for more than $200 million in upgrades to Hollywood's aging infrastructure. Sun Sentinel_ 10/21/09

Leaders in suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, protest city's proposed water rate increase

Ten suburban mayors and village presidents are formally objecting to Milwaukee's proposed 36% increase in water rates for suburban ratepayers, saying it would be unfair to force the suburbs to subsidize the city's general fund operations. The 36% increase in what the suburbs would have to pay to tap into Lake Michigan is several times higher than the typical request for higher rates, such as the 3.8% increase that took effect last month. Milwaukee says it needs the rate boost to stem losses in its waterworks operation and to generate $3 million per year for its general fund. General fund money comes primarily from property tax levies and can be spent for a wide variety of purposes. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel_ 10/12/09

Hearing on 700 percent water cost increase brings out angry customers
With some bills more than $500, people in Graniteville, SC say their water company is leaving them tapped out and they just can't afford it.  Around a hundred upset customers came to tell the South Carolina Public Service Commission how the 700 percent rate increase in water costs enforced by Avondale Mills has affected them, Wednesday.  As resident of Graniteville area, Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt was the first to explain to the commission the unbelief people are feeling over their bills.  "My bill in May was $59.17. My bill in June was $68.29. And my bill in July was $714.65," said Sheriff Hunt. "Some of these people will not be able to pay. There's just no way."_NBC Augusta_9/30/09

South Carolina town approves 45 percent rate hike for water, sewer
Denmark SC City Council gave final approval to a 45 percent rate increase on their water and sewer bills.  Prior to the vote, Mayor Gerald E. Wright said he realized the action was not a popular one.  The Times Democrat_9/25/09

Atlanta water billing to be revamped

City Council members did an about-face Tuesday after years of complaining Atlanta water system officials didn’t do enough to collect late bills.  Now, they want a kinder, gentler system that could give some delinquent customers more time to work with the city before they get their service shut off.  “Shutting off someone’s water is a Draconian act,” said Councilman Howard Shook. “It should be a last resort. It should be applied to people who have systematic, chronic problems.”  Rob Hunter, commissioner of Watershed, said he currently has no flexibility. City code requires shutoff before an account gets 30 days delinquent, and even if only one penny is overdue.  AJC_9/1/09

San Diego City Council to consider 7.75% water rate increase

The City Council's Natural Resources and Culture Committee voted unanimously to send the proposed 7.75 percent water rate increase to the full council for consideration Sept. 8. If it's approved, a typical single-family home in San Diego will experience a water-bill increase of $4.73 a month to $65.76, according to a report from the Water Department. The change would be effective Jan. 1, 2010. 10News.com_ 7/22/09

Bill would block quarterly rate increases by New Jersey American Water

A ruling by the state Board of Public Utilities for a 7.5 percent surcharge for company infrastructure improvements is expected soon since the board already has held public hearings and other proceedings on the year-old request. Approval could result in automatic and fractional quarterly increases that would end when or before the 7.5 percent figure is reached, said company spokesman Richard Barnes. Assemblywoman Dawn Marie Addiego and Assemblyman Scott Rudder, both R-Burlington, are introducing a bill that would ban automatic quarterly increases. They also have written a letter to Gov. Jon S. Corzine expressing outrage at the company's quest for yet another increase. State Public advocate Ronald Chen already has opposed the New Jersey American Water request. The company serves 2.5 million people in 17 counties in New Jersey and is one of 19 state subsidiaries of American Water. A company spokesman said the increase is needed to replace aging infrastructure. Courier-Post_ 7/12/09

Huntsville, Texas cuts water, wastewater basic rates by $2

The City Council approved amending an ordinance by a 6-2 vote Tuesday night to reduce the minimum monthly charge for both water and wastewater by $2 for single-family residential. The minimum monthly charge for the first 2,000 gallons of wastewater will drop from $15 to $13. The minimum monthly charge for the first 3,000 gallons of water used will also drop by $2, but it also depends on the meter size. The reductions will result in the city losing $360,000 — $180,000 in sewer funds and $180,000 in water funds, the city has $3.1 million reserve in water funds. Huntsville Item_ 7/10/09

Water, sewer rates in Atlanta, Georgia rise 12.5 percent

Starting July 1 — Wednesday — water and sewer bills in Atlanta are going up 12.5 percent. The City Council voted in June 2008 to raise those rates in each of the next four years to keep afloat Clean Water Atlanta, the city’s $4 billion program to overhaul its aging sewer system and improve water quality. Atlanta Journal Constitution_ 6/30/09

Detroit, Michigan, city council rejects water, sewage rate increases

The Detroit City Council rejected the region’s 2009-2010 water and sewage rate increases proposed by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. In March, department officials presented the proposed 5.1% water and 15.8% sewer rate increases to the council. Suburban customers would see wholesale increases of 8.9% for water and 2.4% for sewer rates. If the council refuses to raise them, city officials could approach U.S. District Judge John Feikens, who has overseen the department since 1977 as part of a pollution lawsuit settlement, and ask him to order the council to raise the rates. Detroit Free Press_ 6/23/09

New York City Water Board orders 12.9% rate hike
New Yorkers will get soaked with a 12.9% jump in their water rates and tough new penalties for broken water meters, the city Water Board ordered Friday. The rate hike takes effect July 1, making it the third double-digit rate hike in a row - and creating an issue that could rile middle-class homeowners in the months before the fall elections. Department of Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Steve Lawitts said the agency was able to trim the rate hike from 14% to 12.9% because fuel costs are falling and more people are paying their bills on time. Daily News_ 5/15/09

Atlanta, Georgia water customers due $3.9 million in refunds

Atlanta’s water and sewer department is sitting on $3.9 million it should have refunded to thousands of customers, an audit reported Wednesday. The audit also found delinquent accounts now total more than $50 million and the department fails to collect millions more every year. Bills are based on estimates, rather than meter readings, for 10,000 accounts every month. And, rate hikes in 2008 were based on overestimates of how much sewer work the Department of Watershed Management could pull off and the actual cost for those projects. These are among 83 findings from the $500,000 audit of the Watershed Management Department. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 5/6/09

Tampa, Florida to consider rate surcharge on big water users

The Tampa City Council this month will consider a drought surcharge that could double, or even triple, the bills of big water users. The Southwest Florida Water Management District is pushing a surcharge as a tool to cut water use. The city's rate structure of tiers 0 through 4 is based on water use. The proposal would add two tiers of increasing rates. Tampa Tribune_ 5/5/09

Unread water meters in Cleveland, Ohio, lead to catch-up billing at today's rates

Cleveland Water Division customers whose meters were not read for years are being billed at today's prices for water they used when rates were lower. This could add up to hundreds of dollars for some residents. In the case of Suzie Mayer of Shaker Heights it's a $5,764 combined water and sewer bill for the past two quarters -- astronomical compared to previous quarterly charges averaging $85. Her meter hadn't been read since 2004. Water Commissioner J. Christopher Nielson said bills are calculated at current rates, but adjustments may be considered. Division officials have blamed a manpower shortage for the lack of readings. Cleveland Plain Dealer_ 5/4/09

Syracuse, New York, considers 15% water and sewer rate increase, again

An identical increase was approved last year. If approved, the new rates would go into effect July 1st. WSYR-TV_ 5/2/09

Indiana American Water seeks 39% water rate increase in Southern Indiana

Indiana American Water customers in Southern Indiana would pay $150 more a year on average if a rate increase the company requested yesterday is approved. The 39 percent increase -- $12.51 a month for a customer using 6,000 gallons -- would affect more than 30,000 households in Southern Indiana, raising the average bill to $44.62 a month. Statewide, the utility is seeking an average increase of 28.9 percent from its 1.2 million customers, its first request in 2½ years. Louisville Courier-Journal_ 5/1/09

Lowell, Arkansas, water supplier postpones rate increase

Board members of the Beaver Lake Water District postponed a scheduled rate increase because of the poor economy. But the board cautioned that rates could change at any time if the district fails to sell enough water to stay compliant with stipulations of a $60 million bond it is paying off. Beaver Lake Water District, located in Lowell, sells water at a wholesale rate to the largest cities in Northwest Arkansas. The cities then act as utilities, selling water to residents and companies. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette_ 4/24/09

Judge rules water fee in California's Silicon Valley illegal; customers could get refunds

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy found that the Santa Clara Valley Water District's "groundwater extraction fee" requires voter approval under Proposition 218, a state law passed in 1996. Last year, the district made about $72 million from the fee, roughly 20 percent of its $358 million total budget. Whether a refund, or how much of a refund, will be required, is unclear. The judge is scheduled to decide next month. San Jose Mercury-News_ 4/23/09

New creed for Southern California water: Use less, pay more

The Metropolitan Water District, the main supplier for Southern California, is marching toward rate increases of about 40 percent over two years – the largest spike since the early 1990s. Its higher prices could show up as early as September. Some local water districts had planned to boost rates to pay for expenses such as maintaining their own pumps and pipes, so they will add their increases to Metropolitan's. And districts throughout San Diego County are drafting stiff penalties or fees to encourage water conservation amid California's drought. It could feel like a punch in the gut for recession-weary residents, who will have to pay much more for water and use much less. The city of San Diego already charges one of the highest rates among major utilities in the nation, a recent survey shows. Metropolitan is expected to finalize its rate structure April 14. San Diego Union Tribune_ 4/4/09

Water companies hit consumers with restrictions and higher bills
Consumers are being hit twice by Australia's government-owned water companies, first by water restrictions and then by higher prices to compensate for profits lost to the utilities when household water use plummets.  The latest national performance report into Australia's water utilities shows that water bills have continued to climb, despite people's compliance with their suppliers' edicts on shorter showers and garden watering bans.  Last financial year Australian households used 12 per cent less water than in 2006-07, but faced a 3.8 per cent jump in their capital city water and sewerage service charges over the same period, the joint government and water industry report showed.  The dramatic slide in residential water use over the past six years - saving almost the equivalent of Melbourne's entire water supply - has in fact contributed to rising water bills, as utilities offset falling water sales with higher prices. The Australian_4/2/09

Los Angeles, California water rates revised to penalize heavy users

Warning that the city faces a water shortage this summer, Los Angeles officials approved new water rates Tuesday that will penalize residents if they don't cut their water use by 15%. Many low-income water users should not see a rise in rates, while some homeowners with large lots who don't conserve can expect a jump of $11 a month, according to the Department of Water and Power, which unanimously adopted the pricing structure. The rates would go into effect June 1 unless the City Council blocks the move. Los Angeles Times_ 3/17/09

Houston, Texas raises water rates about 5%
Houston utility customers will see their water and sewer bills rise by about 5 percent this year, following City Council's approval today of a new method of calculating the annual rate increase. Since 2004, the water and sewer fees have increased with inflation. Now, rates will increase on the basis of inflation and the city’s population growth. The average customer, who currently pays $44.50 a month for 6,000 gallons of water, will pay an additional $2.26 a month. The utilites budget has been hit by higher costs for electricity and purification chemicals, as well as decreased revenues because of Hurricane Ike, the economy and higher rainfall in recent summers, officials said. Houston Chronicle_ 3/11/09

Cleveland residents fight huge water bills; Faulty meter-reading equipment at issue
Thousands of people in the Cleveland area are facing huge bills for water they claim they didn't use.  Water bills for more than $1,000 are arriving at local homes, putting a major strain on families already stressed by the economy.  Jill Laverdiere got a bill from the city of Cleveland for almost $1,400 for three months worth of water.  The city said Laverdiere consumed 70,000 gallons of water in three months, enough to fill three average swimming pools.  Cleveland utilities director Barry Withers admitted most of the problems are tied to remotes on the outside of homes. He said dying batteries inside can trigger wrong readings.  Withers said more than half the bills are reduced.  MSNBC_2/20/09

Survey: Memphians pay lowest water, wastewater rates
Residents of Memphis, Tenn. pay the lowest combined water and wastewater rates, according to a recently published survey that compared water and wastewater costs for residential customers in 30 U.S. cities.  The survey was compiled by Austin Water Utility in Austin, Texas.  MLGW residential water customers pay $22.67 per month for water and wastewater service, while the second lowest average cost is in Salt Lake City, where residents pay $27.40. Seattle residents have the highest combined average bill at $99.00 per month. Austin residents pay $61.67 a month.  Memphis Business Journal_2/20/09

Recession aid: Not-for-profit Welsh Water to cut £22
from yearly water bills

Welsh Water says it will take £22 off customers' bills to help ease the cost of water and sewerage services in the recession. The annual bills of 1.2 million customers will show the "dividend" as a discount. Welsh Water is run by Glas Cymru, a not-for-profit company and claims it is the only water utility in the UK paying a dividend this year. Last year its dividend was £21. BBC_ 2/16/09

Texas likely to raise water rates statewide

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state agency responsible for overseeing water quality throughout the state, is facing a shortfall of at least $20 million unless it receives fee increases to cover its growing costs. The expected increase in water-quality fees will likely mean an increase in 2010 water and sewer rates across the state, though it is too early to say how much it will affect water bills, officials said. Under the maximum increases proposed in the state commission rule changes, the city of Fort Worth, for example, could see its fees for drinking water jump from $50,000 to $517,000 in 2010. Star-Telegram_ 2/15/09

January, 2009

Detroit proposal would hike water rates nearly 10%
Officials blame the weather, economy, aging infrastructure. . .

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is expected to propose rate increases averaging almost 10% when it meets with city and suburban officials today.   One of the factors driving this year's proposed rate increases was a big drop off in annual water consumption. Water sales fell by almost 10 billion gallons last year -- a 5% decrease -- because of a snowy winter and a rainy spring and summer. Also, with gasoline prices crossing the $4 mark last year, foreclosures and  bankruptcies shuttering homes and businesses, and the economy crumbling, some customers cut back on extras like landscaping.  The lower water sales mean the department's fixed costs, like bond payments, must be carried by fewer units of water sold.  "It's the weather, it's the economy, it's aging infrastructure," said Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch. "It's the perfect prefect storm for rate increases." Detroit Free Press_1/29/09

United Utilities freezes water rates for UK charities and religious organizations

The company, which operates in Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Manchester and Merseyside, was among several companies due to raise prices. Hundreds of churches and charities across England have been hit by what they call "sky-high" increases in water company charges. BBC News_ 1/23/09

Indianapolis water customers might sue city agency over billing

A group of Indianapolis waterworks customers is considering suing the city after a judge threw out its overbilling lawsuit against the utility's private manager, Veolia Water.  The claims central to the lawsuit are that Veolia failed to take bimonthly readings of many customers' meters and relied too often on inflated usage estimates.  The Veolia lawsuit, alleging deceptive practices, among other claims, sought $500 to $1,000 per billing violation. Indystar.com_1/15/09

Water billing springs leak
Belated charge for rate increase gets Atlantans listed as ‘delinquent;’ service shut off

First, the city of Atlanta raised water rates 27.5 percent back in June.  Then, the Department of Watershed Management failed to add the rate hike to bills in a timely fashion.  And now, the city is back-billing to collect the money, listing it as “delinquent” on bills mailed in December, and shutting off water for many residents who were clueless they owed the money.  City officials are so far unwilling to admit any mistake has been made.  AJC.com_1/9/09

Cave Creek, Arizona proposes nearly double water rates

Water rates could nearly double in Cave Creek under a new rate system proposed by utility officials. Customers who use 10,000 gallons a month would pay about $77, up from $40. Cave Creek manages the drinking-water supply for 11,000 water users in Cave Creek and parts of Carefree and unincorporated Maricopa County. The town purchased the system, formerly two separate water companies, in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Cave Creek needs an extra $2.6 million a year to cover all operating costs and debt obligations it owes on the system. The town has spent millions of dollars to fix its aging infrastructure. Arizona Republic_ 1/6/09

December, 2008

Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay Commission seeks 11.68% sewer-rate hike

The Narragansett Bay Commission is seeking an 11.68-percent rate increase for sewer users, effective July 1, according to the utility’s proposed budget for fiscal 2009. The rate hike, which requires the approval of the R.I. Public Utilities Commission (PUC), is needed to cover increases in operating expenses and debt-service costs related to the financing of ongoing capital improvements, the Bay Commission said. Contributing to the rise in operating costs, among other factors, are bio-solids disposal expenses, which will rise 3.5 percent on Jan 1; and electricity and natural gas usage, which will rise when the Bay Commission’s new combined sewage overflow (CSO) facilities at Field’s Point come on line in October. Providence Business News_ 12/26/08

Birmingham water works wants to end sewer billing duties
392 percent increase in county sewer rates mean bad PR for bill handlers

After years of taking criticism for high bills, members of the Birmingham Water Works Board say they no longer want to handle billing for the Jefferson County sewer system.  Board members Thursday agreed to send a letter to Jefferson County commissioners telling them they want to end a decades-old agreement where the utility collects sewer bills for the county.  "It's dragging our reputation down, because everyone associates us with the county and the sewer," said Water Board Chairman Anthony Barnes. "This is something that we need to seriously consider.  Sewer bills in Jefferson County have increased 329 percent since 1997. Bills could increase again next year as the county wrestles with options for paying down its $3.2 billion sewer debt, which threatens to force the county into bankruptcy.  Currently, a typical household's water bill, for a family consuming 7,500 gallons of water a month, is $31.86. A typical sewer bill on the same amount of water is $62.90 a month.  Water Board member Jim Lowery said the Water Works Board is constantly criticized for problems and high sewer rates, but the utility is only the billing agent for the sewer department.  State Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham. Moore said she would sponsor a bill allowing the utility to get out of its arrangement.  Moore said ratepayers are confused about the cause of the high utility bills and how the sewer and county are responsible for the bulk of the increases. In addition, Moore said it is unfair for the Water Works Board to be forced to disconnect water service for customers who are unable to pay exorbitant sewer bills.  The Birmingham News_10/17/08

California Water Resources Control Board dramatically increases fees for utilities; consumers couid see rate hikes

Last year, Pacific Gas and Electric paid $100,000 in fees to the state Water Resources Control Board for the privilege of using California’s waterways during the course of business. This year, it will pay $1.47 million. An increase of nearly fifteen-fold. That’s the biggest fee hike in the state - followed closely by Southern California Edison’s hike, from $100,000 to $710,137. This is necessary, the Water Board said, because it moves toward a “polluter pays” approach. Fees increase proportionate to discharge. Cities and counties will pay more in fees to the state Water Board, too.The Water Board hiked fees last week to plug an $18.4 million hole in its budget. Many complained that the board didn’t even try to cut back on expenses, and implored it not to go forward with a fee hike when the economy is in free-fall. “It’s the easy way out,” said Ken Domer, Villa Park city manager. “To simply set your budget then seek the revenue needed is discouraging because we all have a fiduciary responsibility to look at our organizations and programs first for cuts, and then to the taxpayers last. It’s not our money and it’s sad that concept eludes folks at the state level." Orange County Register_ 10/13/08

Survey: Seattle has highest water and sewer costs in the nation
Seattle has the highest combined water and sewer costs in the country, according to an annual survey of 51 markets by NUS Consulting Group, an energy and telecommunications consulting company.  Seattle’s combined water and sewer costs are $14.28 per thousand gallons, up 5.1 percent from last year.  Atlanta was the second most expensive at $13.28 per thousand gallons, followed by Boston ($12.96), San Francisco ($12.76) and Portland, Maine ($11.67). Memphis’ water and sewer cost is $2.43 per 1,000 gallons, the lowest in the nation despite an 8.9 percent rise from last year.  Biz Journals_9/24/08

High water bills in Ogden, Utah prompt talk of city rebates

Ogden's City Council plans to vote next month on proposed rebates for summer water bills that were much higher than anticipated. The city implemented a new surcharge for municipal water customers who use the most water. But the city didn't realize how many customers would be affected by the water-use charge. One resident says he got a bill for almost $1,300 in July alone. City officials are considering about $275,000 in rebates for some customers. Salt Lake Tribune_ 9/21/08

Miami Beach, Florida to raise water, sewer and stormwater fees

In a city where flooding is a common headache, residents will see a hike in their bills for water, sewer and stormwater services when the new budget year starts Oct. 1. The amount of those increases has yet to be determined. City Manager Jorge Gonzalez is proposing that Miami Beach charge residents in single-family homes more than double what they pay now: $31.64 to $32.45 a month for their combined water and sewer fee. Currently, residents pay $12 a month. Gonzalez said most of the increase will go toward helping the city obtain bond financing for new water and sewer pipe installations. Miami Beach needs $50 million to replace its aging water pipes and another $21 million for its sewer pipes. The proposed fee also includes an increase of $0.3649 per 1,000 gallons of water from the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department, which the city is passing on to consumers. Gonzalez further proposed hiking stormwater fees from $5.80 to $13.05 a month. The city needs $94.6 million to replace stormwater drains in several neighborhoods, Gonzalez said. MiamiHerald_ 8/26/08

Water rate conflict in Chattanooga

Tennessee-American Water Co. is fighting back this week against the city’s “Fight the Hike” campaign, making its case for a water rate increase with radio and newspaper advertisements and letters to its 75,000 customers. In a mailing received by most customers Thursday, the water utility says most of its proposed 20.58 percent increase is needed to fund a $21.4 million upgrade of its system. Leaders of a the “Fight the Hike” coalition, formed to resist the latest rate increase, claim the utility is trying to make excess profits with its second double-digit rate increase in as many years. The public campaigns by supporters and opponents of Tennessee-American set the stage for next week’s hearing of the rate case in Chattanooga by the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, which is scheduled to decide in September how much, if any, water charges will rise this fall.  Times Free Press_8/15/08

In Southern California, more renters are paying for water

Welcome to the new era of rent wars as landlords and tenants spar over rapidly escalating residential water costs, who should pay them and how they should be apportioned. The issue is becoming even more urgent in drought-stricken Southern California this year because cash-strapped agencies and cities are hiking water and sewer service charges to offset the reduced supplies and higher cost of importing water. Cities across Orange County have increased water rates. San Clemente hiked rates 9 percent on top of a 5.7 percent raise in 2007. Santa Ana water users saw rates rise twice in the last year. But Darcy Burke, spokeswoman for the Municipal Water District of Orange County, says the retail price of water rose 30 percent over the last five years. With water rates quickly eating a hole in their bottom line, landlords are looking to ways to pass the costs on to tenants. Orange County Register_ 8/12/08

Palm Beach County, Florida, changing water billing after 8,000+ complaints

Palm Beach County water utility managers announced this afternoon they are changing the county's water rates and meter reading system in response to more than 8,000 complaints they received this summer from residents angered by high water bills. With the exception of a few identified leaks, the high water bills were all tabulated correctly, county officials say. The new rates will be based more on the county's facility charge and less on how much water a customer uses. The county also plans to start reading water meters this month instead of estimating how much water a customer has used. The county plans to use a combination of traditional manual meter readers and radio technology that allows meters to be read remotely. Palm Beach Post_ 8/8/08

South Bend, Indiana, wants to change who approves water rates

Voters will decide in November who sets city water rates. The mayor believes it will save thousands of dollars if the city sets those rates. Right now, South Bend's water rates are set by the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission (IURC). Monday night, the South Bend Common Council decided to give people the option of letting the council set those rates. City leaders claim this won't be a big change. Mayor Steve Luecke says there is little difference between the rates set by IURC and the rates the city requests. He claims bypassing Indianapolis will save time and money. WSBT_ 7/28/08

San Diego, Californa, coud face two more water rate increases

San Diego residents could be on the hook for two more water-rate increases in coming months, which would bring the total to six price jumps in just over two years. The first proposal – which city staff will present to the City Council tomorrow – is for a 6.26 percent increase starting Jan. 1. It is designed to cover the higher cost of water sold by wholesale agencies. The council likely will approve the proposal in September, because San Diego has few options aside from passing through rising wholesale costs to the city's customers. California's drought is a major factor fueling the escalation in prices. Recently, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the San Diego County Water Authority boosted their wholesale rates due to the difficulty of securing new water supplies during the drought. The second San Diego rate-increase proposal could spark divisiveness among city officials and the public. It would generate about $12 million to build and operate a pilot facility for turning wastewater into drinking water, a process known as reservoir augmentation, indirect potable reuse or “toilet to tap." San Diego Union Tribune_ 7/27/08

Tarpon Springs, Florida, to raise water, sewer rates

City commissioners on Tuesday voted to raise water and sewer rates to ensure that the fund that sustains the utilities remains healthy. It's especially significant because the city will soon need to issue bonds to pay for a $45-million alternative water plant. The city is also likely to have less money coming in than expected because the number of customers, which was estimated to increase by 2 percent this year, rose by only half a percent. Overall, rates would go up about 4 percent annually for the next nine years, but customers who buy only water would bear the brunt of the cost, paying an average of 8 percent more each year. Single-family households with both water and sewer services that use 6,500 gallons a month currently pay $60.65. In 2009, that total would rise to $63.04, and in 2013, $73.62. By the end of the nine-year term, 2017, the cost would be $86.13. St. Petersburg Times_ 7/26/08

Water rates increasing in northern and western suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia

Water rates across much of Atlanta's northern and western suburbs will increase by at least $3.25 monthly for the average family, beginning in October. Blaming rapid increases in fuel and construction costs, the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority on Monday voted for the increase, about 50 cents per thousand gallons. The increase includes a previously approved increase of 15 cents per thousand gallons that was to have taken effect next January. Authority General Manager Glenn Page said a decrease in demand brought about by water conservation was responsible for " 25 to 33 percent" of the rate hike. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 7/21/08

Grosse Ile, Michigan to join two others in a study of dropping Detroit water

The Grosse Ile Board of Trustees voted unanimously Monday night to chip in for a water-feasibility study with two other Downriver communities, all of which are considering dropping the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The township, Trenton and Riverview are paying about $69,000 to determine whether it makes fiscal and logistical sense to break from the region's water system. Community officials say they are concerned about Detroit's increasing water rates and its aging infrastructure. Grosse Ile owns its own wastewater plant, which is run by the firm hired to conduct the feasibility study. Detroit Free Press_ 7/15/08

Water rates in northern California's East Bay region to rise 10% to aid conservation

Leaders of the East Bay's major water district voted Tuesday to put teeth into a water conservation plan, even as some customers complained they were being unfairly bitten. Starting Aug. 1, most of the East Bay Municipal Utility District's 1.3 million customers will pay 10 percent more for water. They will, in addition, face surcharges if they drink, pour or otherwise use more than a personal allocation. The affected region is at the eastern end of San Francisco Bay. The rate hike, which the EBMUD board approved by a 7-0 vote, is an effort to shave 15 percent off water use in the aftermath of a second consecutive year of below-average rainfall. It will also raise $21 million, which, coupled with $31 million pulled from a drought reserve fund, will offset a projected $52 million budget deficit. The increases prompted protest at a public meeting in Oakland attended by about 75 people. Single-family homes are expected to cut 10 percent off their past use or face surcharges. Businesses and factories must save 6 and 3 percent, respectively, while institutions such as schools are expected to save 5 percent. Irrigation must be cut by 15 percent. San Francisco Chronicle_ 7/9/08

California town hikes water rates to encourage conservation

The cost of turning on the water tap is going up in Watsonville.  And people who use more than the average household will find their water will get even more expensive as part of a three-tier rate structure designed to encourage conservation.  "Unfortunately money does make a difference, and if we have an incentive to reduce our water use, we really need to consider that," said Mayor Kimberly Petersen in support of adding a third tier to the city's rate structure. The rate changes will take place in two phases. Rates will increase 2.9 percent July 1, from an average of $19.63 to $20.15 per month to keep pace with rising operating costs, officials said. A third tier to the city's current two-tier system will go into effect in April 2009 to allow time to educate residents on water conservation. San Jose Mercury News_ 6/25/08

Atlanta, Georgia considers higher water bills

Two proposals to raise Atlanta's water and sewer rates moved forward Tuesday. One would boost rates 27.5 percent this year followed by three consecutive rate hikes at about 12 percent. The other would impose a 15 percent penalty to make up for water revenue the city has lost through conservation during the drought. Both moved without a formal recommendation of support but will be considered by the council over the next 20 days as the panel tries to wrap up the fiscal year 2009 budget. Water utility officials say the increases are needed to continue to pay for the bonds Atlanta is using for the $4 billion program to overhaul its aging water and sewer systems. Atlanta Journal Constitution_ 6/11/08

Southern U.S. water providers raise rates despite conservation

After months of putting up with brown lawns and dirty cars to conserve water, many residents of the drought-stricken Southeast are now paying sharp rate increases from utilities scrambling to make up lost revenue. It's like a conservation penalty — cut back, then pay more. But utility operators say they have little choice. Drought-inspired rate hikes and surcharges are somewhat common in parched communities in the West, but it's a new concern for many utilities in the Southeast used to an abundant water supply. Georgia usually gets about 50 inches of rain a year, compared to about 13 in Arizona. Rainfall deficits, higher demand and a three-state fight over federal water resources combined to plunge Georgia into its worst drought in recorded history. Help — of sorts — is on the way. At a water efficiency conference in College Park, officials invited utility heads to submit proposals for some $40 million in state funding for more reservoirs. But the process could likely take decades. AP_ 5/26/08

New York City water rates rising 14.5 percent after big boost in 2007

New York City water and sewer rates are set to rise 14.5 percent this summer, marking the biggest increase in 16 years and the second double-digit jump in a year. The city Water Board approved the increase Friday, over objections from the city comptroller and several City Council members. The new rate takes effect in July. The average single-family homeowner's bill will rise from $700 to $800 per year. The increase comes on top of an 11.5-percent boost last year. The city Department of Environmental Protection says it needs more money to cover surging fuel costs and service improvements. The coming rate hike is the biggest since a 22.9-percent spike in 1992. Newsday_ 5/16/08

Water bills in two Maryland counties to increase 8% on July 1

Residents of Prince George's and Montgomery counties will see their rates for water use jump by 8 percent starting July 1, raising the average customer's quarterly bill by $11.25. Meeting jointly, the councils of the two counties agreed to the increase yesterday as they approved a $913.7 million budget for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which provides water and sewer service to 1.8 million customers in the counties. The budget will fund the utility's operations as well as the replacement of 27 miles of water lines and 51 miles of sewer pipes. The commissioners agreed in February to an 8 percent increase after the members who represent the counties clashed over a proposal by the utility to raise rates by 9.5 percent. Utility managers also wanted to impose a monthly $20 fee devoted to replacing the system's 10,800 miles of underground water and sewer pipes. The managers said there is a desperate need to take action to prevent breaks. With the 9.5 percent increase and the fee, water bills would have risen 50 percent starting in July. Commissioners rejected the fee in February. There were 2,129 breaks last year, a record. The utility froze rates from fiscal 1999 through 2004, a time of restructuring during which officials said that maintenance was put on hold. Washington Post_ 5/9/08

Save water, pay extra: Some cry foul;Atlanta plans rate increases; others may follow
Even utility officials concede it seems unfair to penalize customers for conserving water during the lingering drought.  Yet, Atlanta and Fulton County are asking to do just that. Both have proposed 15 percent rate increases to offset losses to conservation. And others may well follow if usage stays low across metro Atlanta.  For water utilities the issues is simple: most have millions of dollars in outstanding bonds. A certain amount of revenue is needed to pay off those loans. And less water use means less money coming in. Atlanta has hundreds of millions of bond debt for its Clean Water Atlanta program — a $4.2 billion overhaul of the city's sewer and water systems. "The problem is you want people to conserve," said Janet Ward, spokeswoman for the Department of Watershed Management. "It's the right thing to do. But ... operating budgets don't change."  Atlanta Journal Constitution_4/17/08

Increase in L.A. water, power rates get initial OK

Socking Angelenos with higher water and power bills beginning this summer, the Los Angeles City Council gave initial approval Wednesday for the Department of Water and Power to raise rates to fund improvements to the city's aging utility infrastructure.  The decision came after more than three hours of debate and staunch opposition by dozens of neighborhood council members who warned that the higher utility bills will strain already struggling households.  Both the power-and water-rate increases will be voted on a second time next week.  When finalized, water rates will increase 3.1 percent July 1 and another 3.1 percent July 1, 2009.  LA Daily News_4/3/08

Southern California's Metropolitan Water District approves 14% rate hike for imported water; rates to rise again in 2010 and 2011

The Metropolitan Water District board on Tuesday approved a 14.3% increase in the 2009 rates it will charge for imported water, a hike that will vary widely in the dollars it adds to Southern California household water bills. The increase is a harsh reminder of water shortages caused by dry weather in California, drought in the Rockies and a court ruling hundreds of miles away, board members said. Some members argued unsuccessfully that rates should rise 20%, an increase that would reflect the full cost of importing water. Next year, the MWD will take $166 million from already low reserves to balance the budget, officials said. The 14.3% increase will go into effect Jan. 1, 2009, and rates are expected to rise again substantially in 2010 and 2011, they said. The board's largest voting blocs -- representing Los Angeles, San Diego and the Municipal Water District of Orange County -- all supported the rate increase. Board Chairman Timothy F. Brick said in a statement after the meeting that the MWD must work with its 26 member cities and agencies to manage rising costs, including through "more aggressive water conservation." Some critics have said the MWD has not championed conservation to reduce imported water use and keep rates down. The rate increase will help fund the MWD's budget for next year of $1.98 billion, a 7% increase from this year. Los Angeles Times 3/12/08 (logon required)

Southern California's Metropolitan Water District weighs 14% rate hike for 2009; largest since early 1990s

The board of the Metropolitan Water District is to vote this week on a proposed 14.3% increase in the 2009 rates it would charge cities and water districts serving 18 million people in Southern California. Although the cities and districts would then determine how much more residents would pay, MWD officials estimated that the hike would add about $1.50 to monthly bills for an average household, varying widely from city to city. If the increase is approved by a panel of the MWD board today and the full board Tuesday, it would take effect Jan. 1. Rates could rise again by 6% to 12% in 2010 and 5% to 10% in 2011, said Brian G. Thomas, chief financial officer and assistant general manager. Driving the rate increase are the costs of buying extra water to offset a barrage of shortages resulting from last year's dry weather, a prolonged drought in the Colorado River Basin and a court decision reducing deliveries from the north to protect the endangered Delta smelt. Los Angeles Times_ 3/10/08 (logon required)

Water Rate freeze comes home to roost
Kansas City Council members thought they were giving residents a big gift when they froze water rates from May 2001 through April 2004. But it turns out they were just depleting the Water Department’s reserves and postponing needed water main repairs that the department now has to confront with a major water rate increase.  The council today heard from a financial analyst who said the freeze in water rate increases, plus low water sales from several wet weather years, caused a major downgrading in the department’s credit rating in 2005. So even though voters authorized $250 million in bonds in 2005 for major water infrastructure improvements, the department hasn’t been able to actually sell any of those bonds yet because it didn’t have the financial capacity. The analyst said it will take a 12 percent water rate increase this year to provide the financial resources necessary for the department to issue $104 million in bonds and actually start the maintenance improvements that were promised to voters in 2005. KansasCity.com_2/28/08

Atlanta city goal: Fix all water meters; $16 million written off because of disputed water bills

Atlanta officials insisted last week they'll finish the city's $35 million project to replace or repair 150,000 water meters by the scheduled July 2009 completion date.  The problem of broken water meters is costly to the city. In 2005 and 2006, the city wrote off at least $16 million because of disputed water bills, according to an internal audit report on the project released earlier this month. The city often estimates water use when the meters are broken. The audit report found the city may have underestimated problems it would encounter to complete the work, which city officials said is 12 percent behind schedule. Watershed Management Commissioner Rob Hunter told the City Council's Utilities Committee last week he tried to "get a five-year project done in three years." 

Atlanta Journal Constitution_1/24/08

Lots of rain leaves North Texas cities looking at rate increases

The North Texas Municipal Water District serves about 2 million people and draws most of its water from Lavon Lake. Last year, consumption fell by nearly 25 percent. Yet for the 13 suburbs north and east of Dallas that rely on Lavon and make up the North Texas Municipal Water District, the recent wet weather has played havoc with city budgets and, in a few unlucky communities, could lead to higher water bills. This is what happens when a century-old water-billing system built around presumptions of drought and increasing demand experiences neither. Critics go one further. They say the arrangement encourages people to use more water, not less, and is in dire need of reform. The district adheres to an approach known as "take or pay," in which municipalities essentially prepay for water in bulk from the water district. Cities must pay for the water regardless of whether they use it all. The practice guarantees a steady cash flow for water system improvements and expansion and shields cities from fluctuations in water prices. But a spate of wet weather can turn the system on its head, leaving cities with billions of gallons of unused, paid-for water. Moreover, cities often must buy more water than they need: A city's allotment is equal to the amount it consumed in its year of highest use. The region tallied over 50 inches of rainfall last year – the most since 1991 and one of the wettest years on record, according to the National Weather Service. In contrast, the area received about 49 inches in the previous two years combined. Dallas Morning News_ 1/14/08

Raleigh, North Carolina mayor calls for water surcharge

Mayor Charles Meeker said today he will ask the City Council to approve a 50 percent surcharge on water and sewer consumption rates. Meeker said the surcharge, which would go into effect for water used after March 1 and appear on bills in May, would encourage conservation and help fund the utility system during a period when it is selling less water to its customers. The surcharge would remain in effect as long as the drought persists. Meeker said homeowners can offset the increased cost by using less water. The mayor is also asking residential customers to limit their water consumption to no more than 25 gallons per person per day. Raleigh News & Observer/Charlotte Observer_ 1/7/08

December, 2007

Longview, Washington sets steep water and sewer rate hikes to finance infrastructure upgrades

Between now and 2010, the city must hike water rates by 44 percent and sewer rates by 27 percent to begin paying back the millions of dollars it must borrow to plan, design and build alternatives to the existing systems, Public Works Director Jeff Cameron told the City Council at a workshop Tuesday. The council will decide this spring whether it will upgrade the 63-year-old Fisher's Lane water treatment plant on the Cowlitz River or drill wells at the Mint Farm Industrial Park. It also needs to choose a plan for sewage treatment in West Longview because the sewage lagoons are full --- all 45 acres of them. The average residential customer paid $20.88 a month for water this year (most customers are billed every two months, though). In 2010, the water rate will be $31.32 a month if the council agrees to it. The council will vote on the issue at the Jan. 10 meeting, which would make the utility rate increases effective Jan. 15. City staff also recommend raising sewer rates to $51.65 a month in 2010. Longview's residential customers now pay $39.89 a month for sewer service. The city has raised its water rates every year since 2002 and sewer rates every year since 2003. Longview Daily News_ 12/19/07

Arizona residents upset over water rates; New tiered structure charges for overuse
Two months after taking effect, a new rate structure at the Carefree Water Co. (Carefree, Az) has the thumbs down from customers who claim it is unfair and excessive.  Disgruntled residents flooded the Carefree Water Co. board of directors with complaints Tuesday. Under the new five-tiered structure, customers who use more than 16,000 gallons a month are fined between $50 and $150. Rate percentages also increase with usage.  "It encourages conservation," said Stan Francom, general manager of the Carefree Water Co., which serves about 1,700 customers in the Carefree area.   Based on the tiers, customers are charged $50 a month whether they use 16,001 gallons a month or as much as 26,000 gallons a month.   The Arizona Republic_12/6/07  (logon required)

Southern California's Metropolitan Water District to raise household water rates 10%; Cut water to agriculture 30%
Concerned about future supplies, the Metropolitan Water District announced Monday that it would cut shipments to Southern California agriculture by 30% and that customers would eventually pay higher rates. The action by the giant water wholesaler, which provides water to 18 million people across Southern California, marks its first step in dealing with upcoming reductions in water supply and the record dry conditions locally. MWD General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said that if the dry weather continues into this winter, local agencies would have to consider mandatory rationing, an extreme measure not seen since the severe drought of the early 1990s. A federal judge this summer issued a ruling that is expected to slash water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by about a third, part of an effort to save the endangered delta smelt. As a result, the MWD will have to import costlier water through transfers from places such as the Central Valley, ultimately raising customer rates by roughly 10%. That's on top of rate hikes many water agencies had previously planned to make up for infrastructure costs and other expenses. Los Angeles Times_ 10/9/07 (logon required)

Los Angeles DWP board approves power, water rate hikes
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power board approved rate hikes Tuesday for residential and commercial customers that would increase electricity costs about 9% and water charges about 6% by July 2009.  The bimonthly cost for average residential customers would rise about $14.50. Monthly bills for medium-sized businesses would increase about $1,043. The increase in the base rate is the first approved by the DWP board in 15 years.  Under the plans, power rates would rise 2.9% on Jan. 1, 2.9% on July 1 and 2.7% on July 1, 2009. Water bills would increase 3.1% on July 1 and 3.1% a year later.  Neighborhood council leaders and business owners warned the DWP board Tuesday that the increases would hurt customers and make it harder for businesses to compete. But agency officials said the hikes were necessary to upgrade aging electrical and water equipment and to keep up with inflation.  Los Angeles Times_10/3/07

Methuen, Massachusetts raises water rates an average of $137 per year; Avoids staff layoffs

The City Council last night approved a water rate hike that will increase the average users' bill by $137 a year - the first water rate increase in 15 years. While the mayor had been pushing for a multiple rate structure - to charge more for more water use - the council last night unanimously passed a flat rate - charging all users $2.32 per 100 cubic feet. The average bill that currently costs $181 a year will increase to $318 under the flat rate. Mayor William Manzi said without a rate increase, he would have to lay off nine Water Department employees and make other cuts to the department's $5.1 million budget that council approved in June. Union members and their business agent were at the meeting promising to file a grievance if there were layoffs. Eagle-Tribune_ 9/25/07

Western Ventura Calif. farmers balk over 53 percent water hike
Citing repair needs, the Casitas Municipal Water District board raised water rates for farmers by 53 percent.  More than 30 farmers showed up for Wednesday's meeting to oppose the hike, predicting the higher cost will drive them out of business and change the rural character of western Ventura County areas.  Farmers will now pay about $312 for an acre-foot of water, compared to about $207 under the old rates. They were paying about one-third of what residential customers pay. Residential rates remain the same.  The Casitas Municipal Water District supplies water to about 60,000 people and hundreds of west county farms. The cities of Ventura and Ojai, the Rincon area and upper Ojai and Ventura River Valley areas are supplied by the district.  The district said pumps and tanks need repair.  San Jose Mercury News_8/30/07

New York City has short list for cutoff of water

After spending much of the last year trying to fix its outdated and unreliable water billing system, New York City is finally getting tough on delinquent ratepayers — but only on 11 of them. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which runs the largest municipal water system in the country, yesterday issued notices to 11 single-family homeowners around the city warning them that they have 30 days to bring their water bills up to date or their taps will run dry. That might not seem like much of a threat, considering there are tens of thousands of water deadbeats who owe the city about $600 million. An examination of the city’s water records by The New York Times last year showed that some owners who had not paid their water bills for more than a decade individually owed the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. But those owners or their properties were not included on the city’s first shutoff list yesterday. Instead, the 11 unidentified homeowners have been in arrears for no more than 18 months, and they owe a total of just $53,000. Nonetheless, the service termination notices represent a big step for New York. Unlike other major cities around the nation, New York has not routinely used service terminations to force customers to pay their bills, although it has had the legal authority to do so since 1999. Emily Lloyd, the department’s commissioner, said that by starting small, the city would have the chance to ensure that the termination process worked as intended. She said no notices would be issued during the heating season, which runs from Oct. 1 to April 15. But next spring, the city intends to get tough again, perhaps this time on a larger scale. New York Times_ 8/8/07 (logon required)

Canada's builders urge user-pay system for water
Toronto-area residents should pay the full cost of water, so they feel it in the wallet when they take a long shower or leave on the garden sprinkler.  That is one recommendation from a construction industry alliance that urged "innovative" action yesterday by local and provincial governments, and a bigger role for the private sector, to replace aging water mains and sewer pipes.  Subsidizing the cost of water gives residents a false impression of the true price and puts needless pressure on local governments to expand their network of water and sewer pipes, said Prof. Harry Kitchen, author of a report for the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario.  A second report by University of Toronto professor Tamer El-Diraby said municipalities should look for savings by setting up water utilities with the private sector.  Globeandmail.com_7/25/07

Texas cities paying millions for water no one uses

Plano water customers spent $12.1 million on 17.5 billion gallons of water that never flowed through sprinkler heads or water hoses during a five-year period that ended last summer. Water restrictions meant that Plano homeowners saved water. Recent deluges mean even more water savings this summer. But, ironically, the city's contract with its water supplier still requires its citizens to pay for the unused water. The so-called "take-or-pay" system is used throughout Texas and the western United States. Essentially, it requires member cities to buy a volume of water every year that equals a highest-usage year – whether or not they actually use that much. North Texas Municipal Water District officials say their regional network is not about gallons used but providing a strong delivery system of reservoirs, pipelines and pump stations that cities can depend upon year after year. Dallas Morning News_ 7/17/07

Bid to halt San Francisco water rate boost fails

An effort to block a controversial boost in San Francisco's water rates fell apart Monday when Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier missed a committee meeting that was the last chance to stop the two-year, 15 percent increase from taking effect. Without Alioto-Pier, the two-member committee could not hold its scheduled meeting or vote on a homeowner-backed resolution to reject the July 15 rate increase proposed by the city's Public Utilities Commission. But even if the meeting had been held, there is no guarantee Elsbernd's resolution to reject the rate increase would have passed. Alioto-Pier, who said she missed the meeting because of a scheduling mix-up, planned to vote against the plan to block the water rate increase. Under committee rules, a tie vote would have killed the resolution, although the members could have agreed to forward it to the board without a recommendation. Most groups in the city found something to dislike about the planned water rate boost, but homeowner groups have complained the loudest. They were especially upset over the PUC's plan for a tiered-rate system that would affect only single-family homes. The new rates will boost the combined monthly water/sewer bill for the average, three-member family by 9 percent in 2007-08 and an additional 10 percent in 2008-09, according to PUC figures. That average $52.80 bill will rise almost immediately to $57.39 and then to $63.06 in a year. The average monthly water bill will go up $1.75, to $20.84, and then rise to $23.10 next year. The combined water-sewer cost is less than the average monthly bill for Los Angeles, San Diego, Palo Alto and Oakland, but higher than the average bill for San Jose, Fremont or Santa Clara. San Francisco Chronicle_ 7/10/07

June, 2007

Cambria, California could see water and sewer rate increases

The 2007 plan isn’t quite finished. But the study is far enough along that officials want to explain the major concepts behind the report and get the public’s comments about the process so far. Since November 2001, the district has capped new water connections, and it won’t issue new ones until the town’s water shortage can be solved. Bills paid bimonthly by the district’s water and sewer customers are supposed to keep those departments in the black. However, that hasn’t been the case for some time, even with the district’s 5 percent rate increase last year. While federal funds have been promised for a desalination project, Congress hasn’t yet appropriated the money. San Luis Obispo Tribune_ 6/10/07

Tampa, Florida water rates likely to rise

Tampa water customers' rates now are among the lowest in the region. But that's likely to change. With the city under pressure to encourage conservation, meet rising demand, pay for repairs to leaky pipes and give more fresh water to the Hillsborough River, Mayor Pam Iorio wants to increase water charges. Most City Council members, who will need to approve any price bumps, support the idea. Tampa residents who use 8,000 gallons a month, typically pay $12.42. St. Petersburg Times_ 5/29/07

Steep water rate hike brings threat of lawsuit
Astounded by the biggest water rate increase in 15 years, public officials threatened to go to court to overturn the new levy.  The threat came after the city Water Board voted unanimously to increase water rates by 11.5 percent, beginning July 1. The new rate will drive up the annual cost for the average single-family metered household by $72, from $627 to $699.  City Councilmember David Weprin, chairman of the council's Finance Committee, called the board's action an outrage and said he was considering a lawsuit to overturn it.  "They totally ignored any testimony from the public. This Water Board has no accountability to the public. This is exactly the kind of tax that hurts the middle class, that hurts small business and that really encourages the middle class to move out of the city."  And, Weprin (D- Hollis) added:"This is on top of a 9.5 percent rate hike last year and comes at a time when the mayor and council are trying to reduce tax rates." The Queens Gazette_5/16/07

New water rates in Chandler, Arizona may reward conservation, punish waste

A decision on the new rates likely won't be made until next month, but a consultant's recommendation and a new way to calculate rates based on usage will be discussed by the City Council Monday. Details of that calculation method will not be made public until late Friday. Chandler hasn't raised water and sewer rates since 1994. Earlier discussions by a water and wastewater rate subcommittee urged a new structure that rewards users who conserve water with lower rates while charging more to those who use more. Last September the city paid Red Oak Consulting $143,293 to study rates and make recommendations for change. In January former Chandler Management Services Director Pat Walker, who had overseen all municipal budgets and rates, took a job with Red Oak. A $43 million expansion of the city's water treatment plant is underway and due to be finished by early next year. Arizona Republic_ 5/15/07

San Diego drops water billing system based on estimates

In the end, enough complaints poured in to pressure the City Council to end San Diego's unusual practice of estimating water bills, a 3½-year routine that resulted in frequent overcharges for most homeowners.  The return to bimonthly billing based on accurate meter readings, approved unanimously yesterday, won't take effect for a year. But the council asked Mayor Jerry Sanders in the meanwhile to adjust accounts more frequently starting in November.  Councilman Kevin Faulconer said that billing monthly while alternating between reading meters and estimating usage was “an experiment that just didn't work.”  SignOnSanDiego.com_5/1/07

Households in Melbourne, Australia could face A$50 annual rate increase

The new water toll could be added as Melbourne Water scrambles to recoup billions of dollars in costs from desperately needed water infrastructure projects. The new cost could add as much as $50 annually to Melbourne's 1.4 million household water customers. Projects under consideration include a $2.4 billion recycling pipeline to the Latrobe Valley and a desalination plant to cost more than $1 billion. The new levy was revealed in a submission by Melbourne Water to an Essential Services Commission review of water pricing which will set water prices from July 2008 onwards. The utility said that unless the new charges were allowed, "the economic profitability of Melbourne Water is likely to be compromised". The Age_ 4/29/07

Pennsylvania American Water proposed $6 increase in average monthly water bill

The company filed a request with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to approve changes in the company's rate structure. As part of the filing, Pennsylvania American Water requested an overall rate increase of $59.2 million per year, or 14.73%. If approved in full, a gallon of tap water would still only cost one penny. The last time the company filed for a base rate change was April of 2003. Pennsylvania American Water will have invested over $490 million to replace and upgrade its treatment and distribution facilities, water treatment plants, pipeline replacements and storage facilities. Only a portion of the cost to finance them is covered in the company's current water service charges. Pennsylvania American Water alone owns and operates 37 water and four wastewater treatment plants; more than 100 wells; approximately 225 water distribution towers; and over 9,200 miles of pipeline - ranging from two to 48 inches in diameter. Pennsylvania American Water is the largest regulated water utility in the state providing quality water and/or wastewater services to over two
million people in 372 communities. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Water. Pennsylvania American Water's rates are set by the PA Public Utility Commission, and rates are established based upon the cost of providing service. News Release/PRNewswire_ 4/27/07

Union-Tribune analysis: Routine water bill overcharges turn into mounds of money for San Diego city coffers

San Diego's residential water customers routinely receive inaccurate bills because the city mails them monthly but measures water use every two months. Few cities consistently read water meters for one billing cycle and estimate use for the next. The practice has allowed cash-starved San Diego to pile up extra money at regular intervals, led to hundreds of thousands of billing adjustments, and drawn thousands of complaints – six a day, on average – since it began 3½ years ago. An analysis by The San Diego Union-Tribune shows the Water Department has collectively overcharged customers $1.67 million in the 40 months for which data are available. The bulk of the city's 219,000 residential water accounts have been billed incorrectly since San Diego switched from bimonthly to monthly billing in September 2003 after a vote of the City Council. Union-Tribune_ 4/8/07

Washington Township to receive 22% water rate increase
A double digit water rate increase from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has Washington Township officials planning a campaign to educate residents on water usage.  The township's rate for 2007-08 jumped to $23.89 per 1,000 cubic feet, a nearly 22 percent increase from the 2006-07 rate of $19.61.  The Detroit City Council approved the rates last month.  Supervisor Gary Kirsh said the increase, among the highest given by the Detroit department, is due primarily to the township's peak water usage.  "The problem is we have such a high water use at peak times," Kirsh said. He said the peak usage is applied to the rate formula three different times. On the date the city of Detroit chose to record peak usage in all of the communities it serves, the township used 4.5 million gallons of water, Kirsh said. He said in a normal day, 1.5 million gallons would be used in the township.  "We're looking at programs and a plan that encourage people to use less water and use it more sensibly," Kirsh said.  The Romeo Observer _4/4/07

Providence, Rhode Island soaked for water board retirees' insurance

For at least a decade, Providence has paid the health-insurance premiums for retirees of the board that provides water to 60 percent of the state, while customers in the other towns served by the board have never been asked to pay their share. Customers in all 17 communities receiving water from the Providence Water Supply Board were expected to contribute to health coverage through the board, but because of poor record-keeping, Providence, which paid all the costs upfront, never sent the water board a bill. The mistake has cost Providence more than $2 million in the last 10 years and now the city wants that money back. To do it, the board is planning to ask the state Public Utilities Commission for permission to raise rates for customers across its system. Providence customers would get a double hit from a rate hike: their tax money was used to pay the benefits up front, and their water rates would be raised in order to reimburse the city on the back end. Providence Journal_ 3/9/07 (logon required)

Price of water rising around the world
The price of water is increasing - sometimes dramatically - throughout the world. Over the past five years, municipal water rates have increased by an average of 27 per cent in the United States, 32 per cent in the United Kingdom, 45 per cent in Australia, 50 per cent in South Africa, and 58 per cent in Canada. In Tunisia, the price of irrigation water increased fourfold over a decade.  A recent survey of 14 countries indicates that average municipal water prices range from 66¢ (34 p)per cubic meter in the United States up to $2.25 (£1.17) in Denmark and Germany. Yet consumers rarely pay the actual cost of water. In fact, many governments practically (and sometimes literally) give water away for nothing.  The price people pay for water is largely determined by three factors: the cost of transport from its source to the user, total demand for the water, and price subsidies. Treatment to remove contaminants also can add to the cost.  People and Planet.net_3/8/07

Residents in Canada's British Columbia should pay more for safe drinking water: Health Official

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall said drinking water rates should reflect the true, long-term costs of water treatment, distribution and water system monitoring. His comments came at a press conference where he released his report Progress on the Action Plan for Safe Drinking Water in B.C. An increase in water rates would reflect the costs of developing a system and depend on the size of the system, said Kendall. Some households might invest $150 in a house system. For residents of Victoria and Vancouver, it makes sense to invest in infrastructure and UV filtration and reflect that in water rates, said Kendall. The report also calls for the introduction of legislation requiring the licensing of groundwater extraction and restricting access to groundwater where aquifers are being overused. Times Colonist_ 3/6/07

United Kingdom's Ofwat confirms water bill increases for 2007-08
Household water and sewerage bills in England and Wales are to rise by an average of 7%, Ofwat confirmed today. This comprises an increase of 3.1% in real terms, plus 3.9% for inflation. The average household water and sewerage bill for 2007-08 will increase by around 20 to 312.  The impact of new charges, which come into effect on 1 April 2007, will vary for individual household customers depending on the company that supplies them and whether or not they have a water meter.Ofwat Chief Executive Regina Finn said:  "We recognise that any bill increases are going to be unwelcome. But these increases are essential to ensure that customers continue to receive high quality, secure water and sewerage services both now and in the future. The increases are also partly driven by significant environmental improvements. Without the work that Ofwat has done to keep prices down customers' bills would have been higher."   Media Newswire_3/1/07

Environmental groups endorse San Diego water-rate plan

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders' plan to increase water and sewer rates in San Diego over the next four years to pay for infrastructure upgrades won the endorsement Thursday of three environmental groups.  Joining Sanders at a news conference along the downtown San Diego's waterfront to announce their backing of the proposed rate hikes were officials with San Diego Coastkeeper, the San Diego Audubon Society and the San Diego chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.  The location was chosen because it is near a storm drain outflow that has been the exit point for sewage spills and pollution coming from broken water mains upstream, according to the mayor's office.  The group said the proposed rate hikes are needed to prevent further problems caused by the failure of aging water and sewer systems.  “We need to do what we can to protect our environment from pollution by improving the city's infrastructure,” Sanders said. “The projects we will fund with the rate increases being proposed for our water and wastewater systems are a critical part of our effort to keep pollution out of this bay and other environmentally sensitive areas.” 

Sign On San Diego_2/22/07

Detroit council blasts 'disgraceful' water rate hike; action delayed
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's staff pulled a water and sewer rate increase off the City Council agenda after it appeared the measure was destined to fail.  Several council members said they planned to vote the increase down, in part because the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department hasn't fully established a new assistance program for the poor. The council directed the department to create the program about a year ago when they implemented the last rate increase.  Kandia Milton, Kilpatrick's liaison to the council, said a 'no' vote on the rate increase would mean no money for any assistance program and may even hurt the city as it tries to fight off efforts from the suburbs to gain more control of the department.  This year's proposal includes a 3.5 percent average water and sewer rate increase for suburban customers and about a 9.2 percent increase for city residents. Water department officials say the jump is needed to replace its aging infrastructure.  In Detroit, more than half of the increase would pay for delinquent water bills, raising nearly $14 million. Annual unpaid bills cost the city about $24 million, but water department officials said a new monthly billing system should help offset some of that cost.  Also, about 2 percent of the increase for Detroiters would go to fund the new assistance program, at about $5 million. The water department still is seeking a third party to administer the program.  The council still has time to act on the increases. The rates take effect July 1 if approved by March 3. Council is expected to take up the rate discussion again Thursday.   www.detnews.com_2/14/07

Arizona water companies seek property tax cuts; opponents fear rate payers will bear the cost

Many of the state's more than 300 private water companies are uniting behind a hotly contested bill that would give them substantial tax cuts.
Senate Bill 1077 would set the property valuation for water companies at $500 each, resulting in drastic reductions in the companies' property taxes. Critics, however, complain the $11 million tax-savings windfall for the private companies would have to be picked up by taxpayers. The governor vetoed a similar measure last year. Water company officials say they are struggling to make ends meet in light of rising interest rates, soaring power costs and strict arsenic standards, and the tax relief would allow them to slow the rise in consumer water rates. The bill has passed two Senate committees and is awaiting action on the Senate floor. Backers say the measure would give private water companies the same tax status municipal water companies have in urban areas. Sen. Jake Flake, R-Snowflake, said, "It's just a little tax financial help to keep some of our private water companies from going broke." The issue arose because municipal water companies that serve most metropolitan areas don't pay property taxes. But private water companies, located mostly in rural and suburban areas, are subject to the taxes, giving them an added operating cost, said Greg Patterson, director of a water utility association. Community News Service/Arizona Daily Star_ 1/29/07

Connecticut Water Co. to raise rates twice in next 15 months
Rates will increase twice in the next 15 months for customers of Connecticut Water Co., the largest publicly traded water utility in New England, the company said Wednesday.  The state Department of Public Utility Control on Tuesday approved a settlement that includes a two-step phase-in of higher rates.  The first increase will produce $7.1 million in additional annual revenue, currently about $49.1 million. A typical residential customer will pay about $16 more on a quarterly water bill.  A second increase takes effect April 1, 2008, and will increase annual revenues by approximately $3.8 million.  The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Connecticut Water Service Inc., in July sought higher rates that would have produced $14.6 million more in annual revenue to recover $130 million in infrastructure improvements and a 60 percent increase in operating costs. Connecticut Water, which last raised rates 15 years ago, agreed to not seek another general rate increase before Jan. 1, 2010.  Boston.com_1/17/07

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders proposes 35 percent water rate increase over next four years

Sanders and City Attorney Michael Aguirre said at a news conference Monday that rate hikes are the only way the city can pay for improvements to the city's aging pipelines. The city may be liable for fines or sanctions by regulatory agencies if the pipe infrastructure isn't upgraded, both officials said. If the rates are approved, monthly water and sewer bills for the average homeowner would increase by about 35 percent over the next four years. Passing the rate increases would allow the city to borrow funds in the bond market and finance approximately $1.4 billion worth of sewer and water infrastructure improvements through 2011, city officials said. Inspections in 1997 uncovered serious degradation in the system, prompting the California Department of Health Services to issue a compliance order to the city. Under the order, the city must replace water pipes between 2008 and 2011 at an estimated cost of $154 million. The city must also upgrade one treatment plant at a cost of $100 million and install an ozone disinfectant system at another plant, according to a report by Aguirre. The council is set to debate and possibly vote on the rate hikes Feb. 26. AP/San Francisco Examiner_ 1/8/07  Read the full report


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