Expect higher water bills soon

HOUSTON The simple fact is it's costing the city more to process the water and the sewage than the amount of money they're bringing in. Since the program is losing money, eventually that will have to change, and that can only mean one thing – your rates will soon be going up.

At the City of Houston water department, Benito Solis is trying to figure out why his combined utilities bill skyrocketed this month to $530.53. Solis suspects an underground leak caused his utilities bill to spike to four times its usual cost. But come next year, all city residents will likely see a far less significant, but noticeable, water bill hike.

Houston Mayor Bill White attributed it to, "The cost of chemicals and the cost of electricity, to some extent, the cost of personnel."

Mayor White says the cost of acquiring, processing and sending out water to millions of Houstonians has risen faster than the current utilities rate, and like it or note, rates will have to be raised, sometime next spring.

"People understood that nothing was free," he said. "If you communicate well with the citizens and it's clear you go about it in a business-like basis, I think citizens understand."

The exact rate hike will be determined after a consultant hired by the city makes recommendations. Your rate increase will be different if you live in the city or in a part of the county that buys city water. Either way, water customer Chano Valenzuela says he won't be surprised.

"It's going to take a little more effort to pay the water bills, the utilities," he said.

City leaders say they absolutely want to keep any potential increase to a minimum, so they are considering hiring an outside firm to look at the entire complicated and massive water and sewer system. Once they have done the consulting, it's expected to be next spring when they determine how large the bill increase might be.

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