It's official: Water rate hike will impact 125 suburbs

October 14, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The mayor confirmed what ABC7 reported Thursday: Suburban residents will foot nearly half the multi-billion cost to rebuild the city's aging water and sewer system.

And those Cook and DuPage country residents will get no infrastructure improvements in their towns for the sharply higher water bills they will have to pay.

If the eventual 70 percent water rate increase is given a green light by the City Council, work crews replacing the aging Chicago water system and repaving the streets above would more than double by this time next year. And 47 percent of the project's estimated $2.8 billion cost would be paid by people who don't live in the city.

"Nearly half of the cost will be borne by suburbanites...replacing Chicago's Water system, updating its pumping stations, updating its streets and its pavements," said Mayor Emanuel.

Hundreds of thousands of suburban customers -- in 125 Cook and DuPage county communities --get their water from Chicago. Emanuel has proposed raising the price next year to city residents and suburban water districts from $2.01 per 1,000 gallons to $2.51 cents for the same amount.

"Our suburban customers will participate in rate increases," said Water Department Commissioner Thomas Bowen. "As a matter of fact, we are bound by law to charge the exact same rate to our customers, residential, commercial and suburban."

The city would tack on additional 15 percent increases for each of the next three years until 2015.

Mayor Emanuel was not concerned that suburban customers will have no say in the water rate increase, but said they will benefit from planned improvements to pumping stations and better water pressure in Chicago, where the system began.

"A lot of this was laid over a hundred years ago," Emanuel said. "Its affects Chicago neighborhoods. It affects what goes on in the suburbs. The pumping stations serve the entire metropolitan area and they will get direct benefit from the improvements we make that are long overdue."

The mayor expects the water and sewer line projects to generate some 18,000 jobs over the next decade.

Water Commissioner Tom Powers told ABC7 that all the additional money collected in the water rate increase -- city and suburbs -- will be used to rebuild the city water system. It will be interesting to see if any of that money -- a $3 billion windfall -- finds its way to the general fund during these tough times at City Hall.

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