CHAMPAIGN — Higher rates for Illinois-American Water Co. customers in East Central Illinois are symptomatic of an upward trend nationally in water rates.
New rates for the 142,000 Illinois-American users in Champaign-Urbana and a host of smaller communities went into effect Monday.
The typical residential user — one who uses 600 cubic feet or 4,500 gallons of water per month — will see a rate increase from $37.20 a month to $39.53 a month.
Residential rates rose from $3.60 to $3.84 per 100 cubic feet of water. In addition the basic monthly service fee increased from $14.50 to $16.50, and a Quality Infrastructure Program surcharge, which had been $1.08 a month, was folded into the company's rate structure.
The national average for water rates in 2010 was $3.74 per 1,000 gallons of water. One hundred cubic feet of water is equal to 748 gallons of water.
The primary drivers of the rate increase were ongoing enhancement and maintenance of the local water system, according to the water company. It says it recently invested $17.9 million in items including fire hydrants, meters and more than four miles of water mains.
The director of communications for the American Water Works Association, Greg Kail, said the biggest factor nationally for water rate increases "is the need for investment in aging water infrastructure."
A recent story in USA Today said that water prices have surged throughout the country in recent years, tripling in some communities in the last 12 years.
In Champaign-Urbana, they have doubled since September 2007.
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, a longtime advocate of municipal ownership of the local water utility, said she still supports the idea "and maybe Champaign will get in favor of it eventually, but we can't do anything until the two cities would do it together.
"The higher they raise the price, the more likely it becomes."
She said there isn't much Urbana can do in the aftermath of the Illinois Commerce Commission decision to award the company a rate increase.
"I guess we got it lower than it would have been otherwise, but the only control you would have is if you owned it," Prussing said.
Originally the water company asked for a $38 million rate increase, later reduced it to $34.8 million and ended up with $17.9 million.
Following is a chart of the new and old water rates, based on monthly usage. The rates do not include fire protection charges, municipal taxes and franchise fees.
Cubic feetNew costOld cost100$20.34$19.18200$24.18$22.78300$28.01$26.39400$31.85$29.99500$35.68$33.60600$39.53$37.20700$43.36$40.81800$47.20$44.40900$51.04$48.011,000$54.87$51.621,100$58.71$55.221,200$62.55$58.82
Source: rates approved and filed by Illinois Commerce Commission