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Article updated: 10/21/2011 8:17 AM

DuPage County likely to see 25 percent hike in water rates by Jan. 1

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A turn of the faucet could cost DuPage County residents at least 25 percent more as soon as Jan. 1.

The members of the DuPage Water Commission have not yet decided on a rate schedule for its customers to address the nearly 90 percent increase Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed over the next four years.

But members said Thursday they need to settle on that soon since they intend to pass along the increase to the approximate 875,000 residents at the same time as the anticipated rate hike from Chicago.

Typically the commission's rate increases go into effect in May.

"The commission is just not in a position to carry that much money," said commission chairman Jim Zay. "It would just mean a larger increase to the customers starting in May and turn a 25 or 30 percent increase into a 40 or 50 percent increase to try to make up for that."

Chicago currently sells water at a rate of $2.01 per 1,000 gallons.

The DuPage Water Commission sells water to its member communities for $2.30 per 1,000 gallons, with the markup covering the agency's debt and operational costs.

Then the municipalities tack on additional costs to cover their operational and capital needs.

Emanuel, as part of his first budget proposal, is calling for a 25 percent hike next year in water rates and 15 percent compounding each of the following three years to help cover the cost of the city's aging water and sewer infrastructure.

Commission General Manager John Spatz said he hopes to have a better idea of the increase following Chicago's water department budget session scheduled for Friday morning.

"I don't anticipate it will be much different from what has already been offered," he said.

Zay and several other commissioners however, are concerned how the additional revenue will be used and have requested a meeting with Emanuel to discuss how the money will directly benefit the city's water system and indirectly benefit the commission's waterworks system.

"I think the city has always been a good partner with us. They've spent millions of dollars of their own money to help the system," Zay said.

"In the past they haven't told us what they're using it for but it's obvious the mayor has an aggressive plan to fix aging infrastructure and that's a question we're going to ask. We've been good partners for some time so I have no doubt the mayor will share that information with us,"

Commission member Philip Suess tried to keep the hike in perspective.

"Obviously we're not happy about a 25 percent increase but we also need to keep in mind we pay the same price as the residents of Chicago," he said. "But we have this reality now and we'll deal with it."

Commission members hope to meet with its 25 charter communities in a hurry to discuss potential rate structures so that the commission is in position to approve a rate hike by its November meeting.

"We need to give our customers as much time as possible so they can budget accordingly," said commission member David Russo. "Whatever the change ends up being, it's going to be significant."

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