Water rates go up again in the San Francisco Bay Area

The Alameda County Water District (ACWD), located in the San Francisco, California Bay Area, recently announced another round of rate hikes. The base “commodity rate” on water bills for the typical customer will increase by 6.0%. Service charges will increase by a whopping 19.0%. ACWD reassures its customers that their rates remain in the bottom 10 the Bay Area’s 30 water agencies (the city of Burlingame is at the top with rates that appear about double those of the ACWD).

ACWD provides a wide range of explanations for the price increases including “the cost of rising prices for purchased water and other operating expenses.” These costs make up 25% and 26% of the rate hike respectively. Water from the Hetch Hetchy system is increasing 38.4% this year to pay for seismic upgrades. The ACWD is reducing the impact of the increase by switching to more local supplies of water. I suspect that other water districts reliant on the Hetch Hetchy are implementing similar measures. The next biggest expense is maintenance costs with constitute another 16% of the rate hike.

Note that while some of these cost increases seem temporary in nature, the ACWD is NOT communicating that any part of its rate hike is temporary.

Happy drinking!


City of Atlanta adds fee for paying water bills online

Online billing is supposed to be a convenience and a cheaper alternative to paper billing. However, certain online bills are apparently MORE expensive to process online.

In January, the city of Atlanta instituted a $4.50 fee to pay water bills online. Other Georgia government entities like the Department of Revenue have charged an online “convenience fee” for several years for paying bills online.

The AJC reports that Atlanta’s Watershed Management Department was charged $700,000 by banks and credit card companies to process these payments. Banks do NOT charge this fee when using online/electronic bill pay systems directly from a bank account.

Live in Chicago? Get ready to pay more for your water.

Hot on the heels of privatizing parking meters, Chicago mayor Richard Daley is reportedly mulling a similar deal for Chicago water:

If the parking meter deal put a bad taste in your mouth, try swallowing this:  Chicago is considering leasing its water system to help fix the budget. The new boss could charge whatever they want for water, CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports.

Chicagoans won’t be the first to pay more for water. And they won’t be the last.

Hat tip: mm.com.

Coming soon to a city near you: higher sewer fees

Santa Rosa, Calif.: Steep rate hikes expected for Santa Rosa sewer, water bills

Bainbridge, Island, Wash.: Sewer rates could double or triple to pay for WWTP

Woodburn, Oregon: Sewer rates could rise 16 percent

Prescott Valley, Arizona: Prescott Valley raises water, sewer rates

Placerville, Calif.: City water, sewer rates could double

Speedway, Indiana: Speedway sewer rates face 85% increase

Foxboro, Mass.: Water, sewer rates rising.

St. Joseph Township, Michigan: St. Joseph Twp. raises sewer rates

La Crosse, Wisc.: Sewer utility may hike rates each of the next three years

Kittery, Maine: Kittery sewer rates may rise

Eureka, Calif.:  Eureka water, sewer rates set to rise

Tampa, Fla.: Council votes to raise Tampa’s sewer rates

Colorado Springs utilities to pay twice as much for coal

From the Colorado Springs Independent:

Colorado Springs Utilities’ decade-old coal-hauling contracts expire next year, so it’s time to make a new deal. And the negotiations, which began recently, are sure to bring higher costs, says Utilities energy supply general manager Drew Rankin.

That’s because East Coast utilities have elbowed their way in at the same mines Colorado Springs buys from: Powder River Basin in Wyoming and mines in northwestern Colorado. Eastern utilities want the coal because it has a lower sulfur content and burns cleaner. That’s crucial as the government looks to force power generators to cut carbon dioxide pollution and to add expensive emissions control equipment.

The city projects that rail charges will increase by about a third by 2012, from around $10 per ton in 2008 to an estimated $15 per ton, or $30 million annually. The price of coal itself will go up even more, doubling from 2008 to 2012 to roughly $27 per ton, or $54 million a year, city forecasts show. The increases definitely will impact rates, although it’s too soon to estimate how significantly.

Small wonder, then, that coal companies’ shares are soaring.

In related news, see “Goldman Raises Iron Ore, Coking Coal Price Forecasts.”

Thirsty? You’ll soon pay more for your tap water

From coast to coast, cash-strapped cities and counties are hiking their water fees.  In Rockland County, New York:

United Water, which serves the majority of Rockland County, is looking to raise rates for the average customer by about $119 a year.  The hike, equal to about 21 percent for most customers, would require approval from the state Public Service Commission.

In Houston:

Houston Mayor Bill White and several city council members sent strong signals Wednesday that the city is preparing to increase rates for water and sewer service.

In Santa Rosa, Calif.:

When Santa Rosa residents and business owners open their city utility bills in January, they’ll likely see an 8 percent increase in water rates and a 7 percent hike in sewer rates. And when they open those same bills in January 2011, they’ll see a second round of identical increases.

In Indianapolis:

Water customers in Indianapolis could see their bills increase by about $8 a month next summer under a rate hike proposed Wednesday by the city’s water utility. The increase would pay for such things as new disinfection systems — which are being required by the federal government to guard against viruses and pathogens — and creation of a backup water supply.

If approved next spring, the increase would drive an average monthly water bill from the current $23.22 to $31.33 — a 35 percent jump — for residential customers using about 5,200 gallons per month.

In Chattanooga, Tenn.:

The amount an average Chattanooga homeowner pays in stormwater and water quality user fees could grow more than six times larger in five years if a proposal gets City Council approval.

“We have to commit more resources to the water quality program,” said Lee Norris, deputy administrator of the city’s Public Works Department. “Regulations have tightened considerably.”

Officials are expected to brief the City Council in detail on Tuesday about the plan, which would raise the fee for the average homeowner from $24 per year to about $163 per year over a five-year period, Mr. Norris said. The fee, which is included in city property tax bills, has not changed in more than 10 years.

In Augusta, Maine:

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has approved a 5.5 percent overall increase in water rates for Aqua Maine’s Camden and Rockland division, effective Sept. 15. This is less than the 7.28 percent the company requested.

In Norfolk County, Mass.:

Town water rates would jump 25 percent and sewer rates 20 percent this month under the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners’ plan to make up a more than $725,000 expected deficit in the department’s new budget, which went into effect on July 1.

In Beaumont, Texas:

Beaumont residents are not going to be happy with a 7 percent increase on their water bills for the coming year, but this fee hike seems unavoidable.

In West Miami, Fla.:

West Miami homeowners will see a slight increase in their water and garbage collection bills as part of a $4.5 million budget the city commission tentatively approved on Tuesday. The commission voted 3-2 for a 15 percent water fee increase and a $120 garbage fee hike for the 2009-10 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

In Augusta, Maine:

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has approved a 5.5 percent overall increase in water rates for Aqua Maine’s Camden and Rockland division, effective Sept. 15. This is less than the 7.28 percent the company requested.

I could go on, but you get the point.