Water rate increases being discussed

When it comes to water use, Tucsonans are among the nation's best.

The average per capita use for residential customers is about 90 gallons a day.

It wasn't very long ago Tucson was celebrating after breaking the 100 gallon a day mark.

In recent years, water consumption in Tucson has dropped more than the experts predicted.

"That the lowest we've ever been in modern history here in Tucson," says water department spokesman Fernando Molina.

With that in mind, Tucson Water is asking the mayor and council to approve it's budget request through 2018, a five year plan.

How much rates will increase isn't known. Council approval is only the first step.

But the utility believes it needs about an 8% revenue increase in each of the next five years to maintain service.

Revenues can come in many ways, rates being only one.

In the past five years, the water rates increased on average of about 8% a year.

"But you have to be careful about that," says Molina.

There are several tiers of rate payers depending on water use. The higher the tier, the bigger the rate increase.

Some of the users in the lowest tiers may actually see a decrease. Some of those in the highest tiers may see a bigger bill than anticipated.

"Our first priority is to keep water affordable," he says. "So we try to keep water that's required for basic needs as low as possible."

That includes cooking, cleaning, bathing, and flushing.

But when making the decision on how much to raise rates, the utility says it will keep the economic situation in mind.

"People would rather pay their cell phone bill, cable bill, Internet that maybe more to irrigate," he says.

People in the upper tiers can save quite a bit according to Molina. Those in the first tier, or lower tiers, not so much.

The water rate increases, if that's what they turn out to be, will be approved by mayor and council in early April.