Brookfield residents can expect their water bills to jump 20 percent soon, the result of the city of Chicago’s decision to dramatically increase the fees it charges to suburban water customers over the next four years.
In November, Chicago’s city council unanimously passed the 2012 budget, which included a host of cost-cutting measures and fee hikes. Part of the budget included a provision that would increase water rates by 70 percent over the next four years, beginning with a 25-percent hike in 2012.
In December the Brookfield-North Riverside Water Commission, which purchases water from Chicago and sells it to the two villages, announced that Chicago was raising its water rate 50 cents per 1,000 gallons of water.
As a result, wrote Superintendent Donald Miskell, the water commission would be passing on the 50-cent increase plus a 7-cent maintenance fee, raising the cost to the village from $2.85 per 1,000 gallons to $3.42, or an increase of 20 percent.
What does that mean for an average customer? Brookfield Finance Director Doug Cooper said the village doesn’t track that figure. However, he said, a customer being charged the minimum water bill would see an increase of about $9.60 per quarter or $38.40 annually.
The minimum water bill is based on 100 cubic feet of water (the village is planning on converting its figures to cubic gallons later this year, after new financial software is installed). For each additional 100 cubic feet of water used, customers can expect to pay another 96 cents, Cooper said.
The latest water rate hike follows in the wake of similar increases passed along by Chicago in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Since December 2007, the water rate charged to Brookfield customers has jumped 56 percent.
The Brookfield-North Riverside Water Commission has five pumping stations and maintains more than nine miles of water mains that deliver water to customers in North Riverside, Brookfield and the Brookfield Zoo.
If residential and business customers in Brookfield think they have it bad, for the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo, the water increase is a real blow.
The zoo is a power user of water. It is billed for water by the village of Brookfield, which serves as a pass-through agency. The zoo is charged at the rate the Brookfield-North Riverside Water Commission pays for its water, which means the zoo’s bill is also going up 50 cents for every 1,000 gallons used.
While the zoo didn’t have an estimate of how the latest water rate increase was going to affect the institution, Cooper said that village records indicate that in 2010, the zoo paid about $1 million for water. Assuming the same kind of usage, the zoo can expect its bill to go up as much as $200,000 in 2012.
However, the zoo is also taking steps to reduce water usage, said Matthew Mayer, vice president for governmental affairs for the Chicago Zoological Society.
“Just like everyone else, our water rates are going up and we continue to take steps to reduce our water consumption,” Mayer said.
As part of the institution’s campaign to reduce water usage, the zoological society in April hopes to roll out a new website to help homeowners pinpoint water use and how to reduce it.
“It’s not only good for the environment, but for the wallet as well,” Mayer said.
Brookfield trustees are expected to vote to pass Chicago’s increase on to local water customers at their meeting on Feb. 13. The increase is expected to begin appearing on water bills beginning April.
According to Cooper, the increase will be seen on bills covering January, February and March usage for customers generally north of the tracks and east of Maple Avenue.