January 27, 2023

Philadelphia residents could see their water bills increasing over the next two years.

The Philadelphia Water Department on Tuesday filed a request with the city’s Rate Board to increase water, sewage and stormwater rates later this year and again in 2024, the city said in a statement Wednesday.

If approved, residents would see an almost 12% increase from September 1. The city estimates that this would mean an additional cost of about $8 per month per customer, bringing the average monthly bill to $77.

Then, starting September 1, 2024, rates would increase again, this time by more than 8%, or about $6 more per month per customer. According to the city, that would bring the average housing bill to about $84.

“Without these rate changes, the Philadelphia Water Department will struggle to make the necessary investments in critical infrastructure, including replacing aging water lines, upgrading water treatment facilities, building clean water reservoirs, and maintaining the pumping systems necessary for delivery and… Treatment of water is required.” Philadelphia Department of Water Commissioner Randy E. Hayman said in the statement.

The rate change proposal comes at a time when people are already severely affected by rising utility costs.

Heating costs have risen across the board this winter. Compared to last winter, natural gas customers are expected to spend at least 25% more on heating their homes, electricity customers 11% and heating oil customers 45%. In the Philadelphia area, PECO increased energy surcharges by almost 16% in December. Several other electricity companies in the region also reported tariff increases.

Water prices have also risen sharply elsewhere in the Commonwealth. The hikes are the latest price hikes for private water company customers who are upgrading aging infrastructure but are also spending millions acquiring public water and sewage systems after a 2016 state law was passed allowing for the consolidation of public water systems.

As of Saturday, customer water bills at the state’s largest private water utility, Pennsylvania American, are set to rise about 14.5%, averaging nearly $9 a month, while sewer fees are up 39%, about $30 per month. Pennsylvania American serves 760,000 customers statewide, including customers in Bucks, Montgomery and Chester Counties.

In Philadelphia, the Department of Water said the requested rate increases were necessary to account for rising costs due to inflation.

“Over the next two years, as part of ongoing national trends, rising costs of labor, chemicals, materials, equipment, laboratory services and capital costs are among a number of factors that together will drive rising revenue needs,” the city wrote in the statement.

The water board expects operating costs to increase by $74.8 million in fiscal 2024, according to the city, while costs for upgrades, repairs, and maintenance are also increasing.

Overall, the department expects rate increases to generate more than $80 million in fiscal 2024 and more than $62 million in fiscal 2025.

The council will hold public hearings and gather feedback from residents before making a decision on the application. The hearings had yet to be scheduled for Wednesday. The city said a final decision is expected in June.

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