Expect to pay more for water

March 3, 2009 4:10:59 PM PST
City leaders are considering a proposal to increase your monthly water bills. The increase will come on top of annual adjustments that have pushed bills up steadily since 2004.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

With a hair studio inside her home and plenty of plants outside, Margaret Day knows she's got a higher than average water bill.

She said, "At some point I was watering the plants a lot, besides doing hair, and it was up to $160."

And that bill could soon go up. Currently, the city already increases your water rate according to inflation every year. But now city council could approve an additional increase of 1.79 percent, which costs the average household that uses 6,000 gallons of water about 80 cents a month.

"For the average household it would be about 78 cents a month," explained city council member Anne Clutterbuck. "Unfortunately, it's necessary to ensure the viability of the system. We have certain bond covenants that require a certain amount of revenue, and our existing revenues just aren't meeting those needs."

Why the additional increase? The city blames a number of factors. First the cost of the chemicals used to treat water has risen by more than $10 million compared to last year. Electricity has also gone up. All the while, the demand for water has decreased, which also caused revenues to drop

"We're seeing people use less water," said Director of Public Works Mike Marcotte. "The reason for that -- part of it may be economics, and part of it, I think, is the conservation ethic is coming forward."

The city says if this trend keeps up, some long term drainage projects may be cut or delayed. But for now, they believe an approval of the 1.79 percent increase will cover costs. Houstonians like Day say they'll just have to grin and pay it.

"Of course I care, but there's not much you can do about it when things are the way they are," Day said.

The city council committee moved this issue on to the full city council. We expect a formal vote in a couple of weeks. It is likely to pass, and residents will most likely see the increase on April bills.

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