City Utilities today announced plans to address aging water infrastructure, specifically to reduce the number of water main breaks.
With more than 1,400 miles of pipe, City Utilities is averaging more than 300 main breaks a year. So far this year the utility has had nearly 150 main breaks in the first five months of 2018. Main breaks can disrupt business and restaurant services and occasionally cause schools to close. They also create traffic problems and inconvenience residents.
Using data that identifies water mains that are most vulnerable, City Utilities has developed a five-year plan to replace 70 miles of water main in areas that have experienced a total of more than 1,500 water main breaks through the last several years.
Up until the year 2000, funding for water main replacement was minimal. Without an aggressive replacement program, many of the pipes in the water main system aged past their useful life. This plan will address those issues by replacing pipes that have been determined to be most likely to fail. The replacement program will improve water system reliability and strengthen neighborhoods.
As a not-for-profit water utility, funding for City Utilities improvements comes from the fees collected from customer usage. The fees paid through utility bills go toward drinking water treatment, daily operation and maintenance, and infrastructure improvements within the water system. The water utility does not receive any funding from property taxes, and, in fact, makes an annual Contribution in Lieu of Taxes to the City of Fort Wayne.
To make the planned improvements in the water system, City Utilities will invest revenue from a proposed rate increase. Adjusted rates for water use will be phased in over a five-year period with the first step of the increase to become effective in 2019. The rate proposal would increase the monthly bill for a typical customer using 4,000 gallons of water by $1.34 in 2019 followed by increases of $1.43 per month in 2020, $1.53 per month in 2021, $1.57 per month in 2022 and $1.67 in 2023 for an average increase of approximately 5.8% annually. Even with the proposed rate adjustments, rates paid by City Utilities customers will still be lower than about half of the communities in Indiana.
Following local approval, the five-year rate plan will be submitted to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) for review. City Utilities will be presenting information about funding the main replacement program in a series of local meetings between now and the end of June.