By Kyle LoJacono
Pasco County water bills will swell during the next four years, forcing residents to pay 20 percent more for H2O.
Pasco commissioners agreed to a new plan for water rates on Sept. 20 that will increase the price each year until 2015.
The typical household of four, which uses about 6,000 gallons each month, will pay $5.44 more monthly for the first year. The same family would pay $12 more by 2015.
“We didn’t want to have the price of water increase, especially now with people struggling to pay the bills they have,” said Commissioner Ted Schrader. “Tampa Bay Water showed us they couldn’t provide water to our county with the current rates. We looked at their data very closely, and we believe this is the only way to continue providing safe water for everyone.”
Schrader is also one of Pasco’s representatives on Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors, an unpaid position. The organization provides water to 2.4 million people in much of the Bay area, including all of incorporated Pasco and Hillsborough counties.
“The demand for water has gone down during the last few years,” said Michelle Rapp, a spokeswoman for Tampa Bay Water. “Because of that we haven’t been selling enough water to cover the costs of producing safe water.”
Rapp said the decrease has happened because more houses have been vacated after foreclosures. That combined with above-average rainfall this year and more people being conservation-minded has led to the reduction in water use.
The water rates spike comes about a year after Tampa Bay Water got an increase of $1.05 for those using 6,000 gallons per month. Schrader said the organization’s board gave them the minimal increase in 2010 to delay this bigger hike as long as possible.
“We wanted to see if this larger increase was going to be needed,” Schrader said. “We were hoping the revenue situation would get better. Now there isn’t a choice.”
Schrader represents Pasco District 1, which includes most of east Pasco. His district includes numerous orange groves and other agricultural production. Schrader admitted the increase will have a bigger effect on large businesses and farmers, which tend to use much more than 6,000 gallons per month.
The new rates took effect on Oct. 1, the first day of the county’s new fiscal year. The increase will also help pay for sewers and other services from the Pasco’s utilities.