Tucson Water officials explain rate hikes - Tucson News Now

Tucson Water officials explain rate hikes

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Right on time for summer, Tucson residents can expect to see higher water bills.

The Tucson Water Department was hosting a series of town halls throughout the city to explain the rate hikes to residents, and to answer questions.

The average water consumer in Tucson who uses about 6,700 gallons of water could see their water bill go up by $2.98 cents or $2.85 cents a month.

Water Department officials had both proposals in front of Mayor and Council.  Officials said both would generate the same amount of revenue for the department, which was about $169.5 Million.

"The reason we have this on-going need to increase rates is that our costs go up too," explained Fernando Molina, a spokesman for the Tucson Water Dept.

Molina said the department had seen higher utility bills and energy costs, but the biggest increase they had seen was in the Central Arizona Project or CAP fees, which was the money they paid to access water from the Colorado River.  It was the main source of drinking water in Tucson.

The good news, Molina said Tucson residents were consuming less water than ever before. He compared the usage in 2013 to that in the 1980's, saying the number of residents had increased by 200,000 people since then.

So if we're using less water, why are our bills going up?

"The rates go up because our costs, we still have energy costs, we still have to repay bond debt obligations, we still have to maintain 4,000 miles of mains.  A lot of our costs remain fixed regardless of how much water we sell," said Molina.

"It's infuriating," said Tucson resident Bill McKinnon. "Tucson Electric did the same thing to us, we want to thank you for using less but now we gotta raise your rates," said McKinnon."

Other residents left the town hall meeting with a better understanding.

"It's something we need.  I know there's always maintenance involved wages we have to pay, and infrastructure so I understand," said Tucson resident Edwin Brousseau.

He worried about the cost of filling up his pool this summer.  Last year Brousseau said it cost him $120 to fill it up.

Molina said aging water lines were also a big expense.  They had about $1 Billion in infrastructure that they had to maintain.

Despite the rate increase, Molina said water in Tucson was still a lot cheaper than many other cities in Arizona.

"A gallon of tap water is about half a cent.  That is water that is tested, proven to be safe, and reliable 24 hours a day", said Molina.

The water department will present the proposal to Mayor and Council at a public hearing in June.  If approved the rate hike will go into effect during the first week of July.

To voice your concerns or learn more about these rate hikes you can go to the department's website at www.tucsonaz.gov/water.

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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