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Water Fees Rising In Charlotte

Higher utility fees take effect Sunday for Charlotte residents, with a storm water fee increase following short on its heels. Take that long shower and water the lawn today, because it'll cost more come Sunday. Residential water rates are going up 11 percent. The set monthly fee implemented last year to give the utility department a more stable revenue stream is also going up. All told, the average household will pay $3.30 more per month for water and sewer. (Clarification: While the tiered rates for individual water usage will increase 11 percent, CMUD estimates the total cost of water AND sewer for an average customer will increase about 5 percent starting Sunday.) Get used to it. Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities Spokeswoman Karen Whichard says rates will continue to increase "modestly" as the department transitions. "We have a very large system that is switching from a growth system - where Charlotte was booming and growing at an extraordinary rate and in fact a lot of our pipes and networks in the ground were put in since 1980 - to more of a maintenance focus," says Whichard. More than half of the utility department's budget goes toward paying debt from those growth years. Whichard says the department is hoping to bring that ratio down by adopting a "pay as you go" model for future projects. That requires more cash on hand - and in reserves - at a time when people are actually using less water because they've been encouraged to conserve. Hence the rate increase. Charlotte residents will see another water-related bill go up, too. Fees for storm water services will increase six percent starting Tuesday. The city's Storm Water Services Department says it needs the money to deal with thousands of citizens on a waiting list to get help with flooding, sinkholes and other drainage problems.