Higher Water Rates Cutting Into Budgets

Higher water bills are cutting into some household budgets more than utilities customers can afford.

Water rates in Bloomington have increased 45 percent. Resident Marie-Noelle Long lives on a fixed income. She says she has had to adjust her spending to afford the increase.

“I go to the groceries less. Of course I eat too much anyways, so maybe that’s not so bad,” she says.

Utility officials say the increase is necessary to pay for improvements to things like water tanks, pipelines and treatment facilities. It’s the same case in Martinsville where the city has held off on some maintenance projects for years.

Like those in Bloomington, Martinsville residents will see an increase of about 40 percent, which can be up to $100 a year for families.

“Some of the issues with infrastructure is that they’re so expensive,” says IU SPEA professor Frank Nierzwicki. “It’s kind of daunting to local governments to have to put that money out. Consequently, they delay, so that when they do need to do the improvements, it’s pretty large improvements.”

Prior to this year, neither community had increased rates in several years. Marie-Noelle says she understands the need for the increase, but it puts a strain on a lot of people’s budgets.

“I’m one of those people I don’t have major disease or big pharmaceutical bills. But there are some people my age who have to have a lot of medicine and there’s nothing they can do about it,” she says.

According to the state’s utilities counselor, other communities can expect similar increases as infrastructure continues to age.

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