With state and federal grant funding apparently off the table for Riverside as it faces the prospect of replacing all lead water service lines in the village, local officials are zeroing in on just how to cover that enormous state-mandated expense.

While decisions probably won’t be made until early April, all signs point to Riverside’s water customers – residential and commercial property owners – swallowing a 54.5% increase in the village’s water/sewer rate over the next nine years.

Last year, a new state law went into effect, starting the clock for a mandated removal of all lead water service lines across Illinois. Municipalities must submit an initial replacement plan to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in 2024 and a final plan by 2027.

All municipalities will then be required to replace all lead water service lines within 17 years at a rate of no less than 6% per year.

The prospect of such a large overall increase comes on the heels of two increases last year, which increased the minimum bi-monthly bill (for water customers using five units, or 500 cubic feet) to $88.20 or $529.20 annually.

The “average” Riverside residential water customer – who uses 11 units per billing period – now pays a bi-monthly bill of $220.50, or $1,323 annually, according to data provided by the village.

By 2032, proposed rate increases presented to elected officials at their Feb. 16 meeting indicate that minimum bi-monthly bills will rise to $136.29, or $817.72 annually. The average customer by 2032 would see a bi-monthly increase to $340.72, or to $2,044.30 annually.

Those rate increases take into account the cost for replacing the lead service lines only. They don’t include any increases the village of McCook, which supplies water to Riverside, might apply in future years, nor does it include any unexpected future spikes in labor and material costs.

The rate increases will be needed to cover the unexpected prospect of having to roughly double the amount of money Riverside will seek to issue in bonds to pay for the long-term water line replacement project.

Riverside had planned to issue $11 million in bonds in two installments – one in 2025 and one in 2030 — to cover the cost of planned water and sewer system improvements, including the replacement of lead service lines in the public way, from the water main to the B-box.

Without grants available to help fund the replacement of the “private” water service lines – from the B-box to the water meter – the village is now looking at a total bond issue of $19 million. The first bond issue in 2025 would be for $9 million and the second in 2030 for $10 million.

The annual debt service on those bonds would rise over time from about $360,000 in 2025 to $800,000 in 2032, thus the proposed water/sewer rate increases during that time.

Village officials still need to settle on the timing and exact amounts of the water/sewer rate increases, but they’ll need to make the first call soon. Riverside is planning a water main replacement on Shenstone Road later this year, which requires the replacement of 51 lead water service lines.