Reduced Aqua rates in effect

Aqua Virginia customers used to hefty bills just received a bit of a break in their mailboxes.

Arriving right around now are the first bills based on the new water and sewer rates approved by the State Corporation Commission (SCC), which are lower than the interim rates Aqua has been charging for a year.

On Jan. 5, 2015, Aqua began charging customers the rates it requested from the SCC, with the understanding that whatever money the company over-collected would be returned to customers with interest.

So customers have a second break in their future. Sometime in the next 90 days Aqua will return all over-collected funds with interest in the form of a credit on customer accounts.

Of course, some Aqua customers wince at the idea of the newly-instated rates being construed as some sort of break for customers.

As Aqua estimates it, the average Lake Monticello household pays almost $120 a month for water and sewer – a much higher chunk of change than bills found in surrounding areas.

But in 1998, when the Lake Monticello Service Company couldn’t find anyone to buy its failing system and save sewage from flowing into the lake, AquaSource stepped in. In 2003 AquaSource was bought by the company that eventually changed its name to Aqua America.

To facilitate this ongoing investment – as well as investments in other locations – Aqua requested the SCC approve water rates of $6.80 per 1,000 gallons and sewer rates of $15.40 per 1,000 gallons. It asked for a water base charge of $17.87 and a sewer base charge of $31.41. Base charges come to customers regardless of water use.

Instead, on Jan. 7 the SCC sanctioned water rates of $6.74 per 1,000 gallons and sewer rates of $15.05 per 1,000 gallons. The SCC permitted a water base charge of $17.62 and a sewer base charge of $31.26.

So Aqua customers will see the difference on their most recent bills, and soon they’ll wind up with a bill defrayed to some extent by the credit on their accounts. Since the last rate increase process began in August 2014, a new one could begin in the next six months, according to comments made by Aqua Virginia President Shannon Becker that placed the typical frequency of his company’s rate increase requests at about every two years.