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Central Arkansas Water customers will notice higher water bills this month.

A rate increase went into effect Jan. 1, for the second year in a row.

The water utility increased its base charge for the first 200 cubic feet of water per month in Little Rock and North Little Rock by $1 to $7.85, and to $10.28 outside those cities. Its charge for each 100 cubic feet after that increased by 4 cents to $1.71 for anyone in Little Rock or North Little Rock who uses less than 3,300 cubic feet of water in a month, or less than 24,750 gallons. Central Arkansas Water calculates a cubic foot of water as equal to 7.5 gallons. There is a higher rate for water in excess of 3,300 cubic feet.

That means an average residential customer's bill increased by 8.9 percent. The utility considers an average customer to be one who uses about 650 cubic feet of water per month, or about 162 gallons per day. That Little Rock or North Little Rock customer would have paid a monthly water bill of $14.28 last year, which would increase to $15.55 this year.

The 2018 rate increase was approved three years ago, along with the 2017 jump, which was also an 8.9 percent increase for the average customer.

There will be no rate increase for residential customers in 2019. The rate study for years beyond that has not been finished, and no rate recommendations have been made.

For a residential customer to figure out how much his bill will increase, he would need to look at the amount of water he uses in a month.

The new rate of $1.71 per each 100 cubic feet of water after the first 200 cubic feet -- or every 750 gallons after the first 1,500 -- is up 10 cents from $1.61 in 2016. Residential customers outside Little Rock and North Little Rock pay $2.73 per additional 100 cubic feet. Commercial customers inside those two cities now pay $1.60 per 100 cubic feet, up from $1.51 two years ago.

The base charge is in addition to the volume-based rate increase. The charge in the two cities is now $7.85, up from $5.85 two years ago.

The base rate is charged automatically, no matter what a customer's volume usage is.

When the Central Arkansas Water Board of Commissioners approved the rate increases in 2015, the executive officer at the time said they were needed to fund the replacement of outdated and aging pipes.

The revenue from the rate increases allowed the utility to increase the amount it budgeted for pipe replacement by $1.75 million last year and again this year. It previously spent about $1.4 million per year on pipe replacement. That will increase to $4.9 million this year.

In a ranking of 56 utilities across the nation, compiled annually by Memphis Light Gas and Water, Central Arkansas Water had the third-lowest residential water bills in 2017. It has consistently ranked third, after Orlando, Fla., and Memphis, for years.

The bill a customer receives from Central Arkansas Water also includes sewer and trash charges for most customers.

The utility's wholesale water rates increased last year and this year, and they will again next year. A wholesale customer is another city or water company that purchases Central Arkansas Water water to provide to its own customers.

Metro on 01/15/2018

Print Headline: Water provider has raised rates for second year

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