Water rate hike would impact 125 suburbs

October 13, 2011 (CHICAGO)

At the city's 95th Street Water Department payment center, news arrived that the mayor has recommended a 25 percent increase in the size of water bills.

"They don't need an increase because times are hard. A lot of people are out of work and they're trying to get by the best way they can," said Millie Miller, Water Department customer.

"The city is thirsty. They're going up on everything...everything," said Jaquetta.

The Emanuel administration says Chicago's water rate, $2.01 per 1,000 gallons, is one of cheapest in the country. He recommends raising it to $2.51, using all of the new revenue to rebuild the city's aging underground pipes.

"We can replace 100 percent of our century old water pipes - about 900 miles - re-line or replace more than half of our century old sewer lines 750 miles," said Emanuel.

The mayor's supporters predict water and sewer main reconstruction will create 18,000 new jobs.

"I think we're talking about the ability to create good-paying jobs, head-of-household jobs where folks are going to able to gain employment in situations that we know right now are difficult times," said Michael Alvarez, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

But raising water rates in Chicago also will affect water bills elsewhere in the region. One hundred and twenty five suburbs, most in Cook and DuPage counties from Morton Grove and Des Plaines on the north to Naperville in the west and Matteson to the south, buy their water from Chicago.

Rate increase supporters say suburbanites will benefit from the economic impact of rebuilding the city's water and sewer system and conceivably could work on the jobs generated by it.

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