Why water, sewer bills are rising in Elmhurst

Elmhurst homeowners will pay more for water and sewer services starting next month.

The city is increasing water and sewer rates to help fund a number of major infrastructure projects. Residential bills also will reflect the rising cost of purchasing Lake Michigan drinking water through the DuPage Water Commission from the city of Chicago.

The rate increases will show up on bills sent out in March under an ordinance recently approved by Elmhurst aldermen. The average household‒ a family of four‒ typically uses 10,000 gallons of water per billing period. The same household will see its total bimonthly water and sewer bill increase by $66.98, or 28.3%.

The DuPage Water Commission charge — one component of the utility bill — currently costs residents $5.18 per 1,000 gallons of water. For Elmhurst residents, that portion of the bill is increasing by 8.1% to $5.60 per 1,000 gallons.

That’s because the city had not yet passed on a 4.1% increase in the water commission rate that went into effect May 1, 2023. The agency also is expected to raise its rate another 4% this May to $5.60 per 1,000 gallons in response to Chicago's rate increases, officials say.

Meanwhile, a committee of Elmhurst aldermen has been studying city rate increases since November.

Officials have warned that the city’s aging water system is more susceptible to main breaks, which can cause service disruptions, boil orders and costly repairs. In fact, there were 60 water main break repairs in 2023; 97 in 2022; 72 in 2021; and 65 in 2020, according to a city spokeswoman.

The city responds to water main breaks each year due to temperature changes, age and condition of the pipes, the spokeswoman explained. The utility division uses a program that precisely locates leaks across the city’s water distribution system by listening for potential water main breaks. That helps city crews repair the break before it grows and loses significant amounts of water, the spokeswoman added.

Elmhurst maintains nearly 184 miles of water main. More than 28% of those pipes were installed in the 1920s. Officials have proposed spending roughly $5 million annually to replace water mains.

Elmhurst and other municipalities also face a state and federal mandate to remove phosphorus in their wastewater treatment process by the end of August 2031. To meet that deadline, the city will have to tackle a new phase of reconstruction at its water reclamation facility over the next several years, officials say. A capital plan for the plant includes $78.8 million in improvements through 2031.

“To ensure reliability, our system needs investment, both in the mains that transport the water and sewage, as well as the water reclamation facility,” said Alderwoman Noel Talluto, who chairs the city’s finance, council affairs and administrative services committee, which recommended the rate increases.

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