North Riverside residents – who have been using water at an artificially low cost – can expect shocking increases on their water bills in the next couple of years.  A combination of more accurate water meters and steep price increases from the city of Chicago should more than double water rates going forward.

Aged water meters in North Riverside are costing the village a fortune, says the village finance director. Flow regulation problems from 30-year-old meters that have outlived their useful life cost the village almost $400,000 last year and have resulted in a fund deficit of $170,000 so far this year. “We have been postponing the inevitable, so to speak,” Sue Scarpiniti told the Finance Committee on Nov. 14. “If we don’t move forward with replacement meters our water fund will be completely broke within a year or two.”

The North Riverside water fund buys water from the Brookfield-North Riverside Water Commission, which buys it from Chicago. The village then resells water to residents and businesses. But leaky and inaccurate meters have resulted in a 60 percent loss difference between the amount spent and amount billed. “The village has been subsidizing the difference all these years. We cannot afford to continue the subsidy.” She said that the new meters would provide “accountability” for water use.

The board has proposed using $1 million of the $4 million in new debt certificates to pay for meter switch-outs and other capital improvements to the water and sewer system. Scarpiniti says water fund savings over the next 10 to  20 years will pay for the infrastructure upgrade.

The city of Chicago has notified 124 municipal water customers that prices for Lake Michigan water will increase by 25 percent starting Jan. 1, 2012 and then increase by 15 percent in each of the following three years.

-Jean Lotus