30 September 2014
If Aqua receives the full amount of the increase it requested from the State Corporation Commission (SCC) in August, its customers will pay between 8 and 21 percent more for water and between 4 and 13 percent more for sewer.
Shannon V. Becker, president of Aqua Virginia, estimates that Lake Monticello customers would see a 15 percent increase in water rates and a 5 percent increase in sewer rates. So for the average Lake Monticello household using 3,150 gallons of water per month, the Aqua bill would increase from about $110 to about $120.
In its application with the SCC, Aqua gave three reasons for its request for rate increases: significant infrastructure improvements the company completed for its water and sewer systems, increases in operational expenses, and a decrease in customer water usage.
Just this past summer at Lake Monticello, said Becker, Aqua replaced the surface water plant’s filter media in order to better filter deposits. Recently Aqua has also installed plate settlers, a new vacuum system, filter drains, and a chemical building. It has replaced 4,000 manual water meters with new radio-frequency meters, installed remote monitoring systems, and upgraded several sewer lift stations.
Operational expenses are also on the rise, Becker said, between increases in medical costs and benefits for employees, jumps in fuel and chemical prices, and raised rates from vendors that do lab testing. Plus, Aqua has to base its rate increase requests on expenses as they exist at the time of the application. Right now Aqua’s rates reflect expenses as they were in November 2011. So they continually operate off of outdated expenses: “We’re always looking backward,” Becker said.
Decreases in customer water usage also plays a role in pricing, Becker explained, because prices set with a certain usage in mind don’t yield as much revenue when customers end up using less water than they did before. “In the last six years we’ve seen a 12.8 percent average decrease in consumption for metered customers across the state,” he said. Not only that, but the average Lake Monticello household uses 650 gallons less per month than the average Virginia household, Becker said.
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