Officials from United Water Delaware have filed an application with the Delaware Public Service Commission requesting rate relief that would result in an increase of approximately 15 cents per day or $4.50 per month for a typical residential customer using 14,000 gallons of water.
“When a utility raises rates for its services in these difficult economic times, customer and elected officials are certainly entitled to an explanation,” said Susan Skomorucha, general manager of United Water Delaware. “This rate filing is necessary for us to continue to meet the stricter water quality regulations of the future, and also ensure the continued safety and reliability of our water system.”
United Water has the lowest rates among the major investor owned water systems in Delaware ($35 to $55 less per quarter). “We’ve been able to keep our rates the lowest as a result of effectively managing our operating and maintenance expenses,” said Skomorucha. “Even with the current increase United Water Delaware seeks, our rates will still be substantially lower than those of other private water purveyors in Delaware."
$8.6 Million in Investments Since Last General Rate Case
The company seeks recovery on investments to fund completed, ongoing and planned capital improvements to the company’s water supply system. These focus on water quality, supply and reliability. Since last requesting cost recovery through general water service rates in 2009, United Water Delaware has invested $8.6 million in infrastructure and other assets to better serve its customers. Areas of significant investment include: delivery system upgrades, technology upgrades, security improvements, disinfection process enhancement, and water storage tank rehabilitation and safety upgrades.
According to Skomorucha, “The Company fully realizes its responsibility to provide excellent water service in a cost effective manner, but it’s not immune to the cost pressures that all businesses must face. While we’ve been able to mitigate some of these costs through better procurement of power and chemicals, issues beyond our control drove the need to file for cost recovery.”
Tough economic times have affected individuals and businesses alike. United Water Delaware is no exception. In recent years, a number of large industries in the company’s northern New Castle County service territory have closed their doors or curtailed operations due to the economic downturn. At the same time, costs for providing clean, safe and reliable drinking water service remain on the rise.
Water Service is a Great Value Skomorucha noted that even if the PSC were to grant the entire request, the typical United Water Delaware customer would pay about $1.05 for a day’s worth of water (approximately 153 gallons), which is less than the cost of one gallon of bottled water. “Our customers have their water brought to their tap everyday for less than a penny a gallon,” said Skomorucha. “That’s pretty good value when you stop to
think about it.”
If the full rate increase were approved by the PSC, water would still be a bargain compared to other utilities, such as electricity, gas, cable or phone service. In fact, according to the United States Congressional Budget Office, combined water and sewer bills nationally average only about 0.5 percent of household income. The average gas and electric customer bill is around $3,300 and represents about 7 percent of a customer’s average income.
PSC Process Ensures Fair Hearing
The Delaware PSC will examine the rate application and conduct a full investigation on the requested increase. After notice and public hearing, the Commission may accept, reject or modify the proposed rates, including the manner in which revenue is recovered from the various classes of customers. Customers interested in further information about the proposed rate increase may contact United Water Delaware at 302-633-5900, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.
Customer Programs Assist Those in Need
United Water Delaware’s customer assistance program called “UW Cares” provides grants of up to $100 per year for qualifying customers who apply through Catholic Charities, which screens applications. United Water shareholders initially provided significant start-up funding for the program and customers who are able have been invited to contribute to the fund. The company has also launched an aggressive water conservation program in an effort to help customers use water wisely. Both programs can be found on the company’s website at www.unitedwater.com/uwde.
About United Water Delaware
United Water Delaware, a subsidiary of United Water, Inc., operates the public water supply system which provides potable water to residential, commercial and industrial customers within its 55 square mile service area located in northern New Castle County. The service area contains a population of approximately 110,000, with approximately 36,700 residential, commercial and industrial customers. Water delivered to United Water Delaware customers is collected and purified at the Stanton Water Treatment Plant with a capacity of 30 million gallons a day (MGD) and the Christiana Treatment Plant with a 6 MGD capacity. Water is delivered through a water system network that includes 532 miles of main, approximately 2,198 hydrants, 6,700 valves, and 18 above and below ground storage facilities with a capacity of 105 million gallons.
About UNITED WATER
United Water provides water and wastewater services to approximately 7 million people in the United States. In addition to owning and operating 20 regulated utilities, United Water operates 220 municipal and industrial systems through public-private partnerships and contract agreements. The company’s affiliate, Utility Service Company, is the nation’s leading provider of long-term water tank management contracts with municipal and industrial clients. Founded in 1869, United Water is a subsidiary of the SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT.
Tom Hubbard 302-252-3013