Inflation and infrastructure costs are driving up water bills in the Delaware Valley

(BigStock)

(BigStock)

Water rates will increase in 2023 for hundreds of thousands of residents in our region — from Wilmington, Del., to the Pennsylvania suburbs.

The most notable increase is from Pennsylvania American Water, whose customers will face a hike of 14%, which the utility says will help replace aging water infrastructure. The company originally proposed a 24% hike, which was met with pushback from the Office of Consumer Advocate.

Aqua Pennsylvania implemented a similar hike of 12% earlier this year. Consumer advocates say it’s possible Pennsylvania American Water and Aqua customers could be hit with more rate hikes in the future, because the companies have been closing million dollar acquisitions of public wastewater systems.

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Residents who rely on public water facilities will face a much smaller rate increase in 2023. The City of Wilmington will raise its water rates by 6%, which is almost equal to what the City of Philadelphia implemented in September.

The University of Delaware’s Water Resources Center has been researching water rates in the region since 2000, and say rates are four times what they were 20 years ago. Private utility costs are about double that of municipal rates, according to the university.

Over the course of the pandemic, inflation on products like chlorine and other water treatment chemicals have played a role in rising utility bills, said Gerald Kauffman, director of the Water Resources Center.

Kauffman said people can reduce their bills if they don’t water their grass in the summer, and if they cut back on laundry — the largest and second largest uses of water, respectively.

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“You can conserve water significantly,” he said. “And by doing that, you’ll save on your water and wastewater bill.”

Customers have the right to speak up about future proposed rate hikes, said Pennsylvania’s Consumer Advocate Patrick Cicero. If a customer’s water supplier is regulated by the Public Utility Commission, they can provide testimony during a hearing.

Cicero said customers who are behind on their bills can negotiate a payment plan with their utility, and should ask their providers about any available assistance to help pay for utilities. People with health problems that would be aggravated by a utility shutoff can seek a medical certification from their doctor to extend the time they have to pay a bill, Cicero said.

Customers can also call the Office of Consumer Advocate Monday through Friday at 1-800-684-6560.

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