Citing aging infrastructure, Providence Water is asking the Public Utilities Commission for a rate increase — the first increase in four years.
Providence Water maintains the water main delivery system in Providence, Cranston, North Providence and Johnston.
The utility is asking for an increase that would amount to a $6.08 per month increase in customers' water bills. The increase is expected to generate $14.6 million more revenue per year, with $8 million for infrastructure repairs.
The company said 80 cents of every dollar generated by the rate increase would be used for repairs, mainly to replace aging water mains and to invest in other water quality improvement measures.
The other 20 cents would be used "to offset the higher costs of property taxes, fuel and other operation expenses," the utility said in a release.
“Any increase in rates is not being taken lightly. Providence Water continues to explore any and all methods to keep current and future operating expenses as low as possible,” said Providence Water General Manager Boyce Spinelli. “When this rate increase is factored into our water rates, Providence Water would still remain among the lowest-priced regulated water in Rhode Island. We have a critical need to ensure that outstanding drinking water can continue to be reliably delivered for years to come.”
The state's largest water utility said its rates would still remain among the lowest priced in Rhode Island.
The rate increase, if approved, would go into effect Jan. 1 of 2014.
The utility said it is managing 550 miles of water mains, most are decades old and made of unlined cast iron with no interior coating. Nearly half of those pipes are more than 100 years old and installed in the 1800s and almost all of the mains installed before 1950 are unlined.
As the mains age, they rust inside, discoloring water. Deposit buildups also reduce the flow of water, causing capacity issues in some areas.
“Water quality and the safe delivery of drinking water is Providence Water’s top priority. It is also one of the biggest challenges facing Rhode Island’s largest water utility in the years to come,” Spinelli said.