Water authority approves more than 3% rate increase for metro Detroit

Posted at 5:12 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 19:14:40-05

(WXYZ) — On Wednesday afternoon, the Great Lakes Water Authority approved a more than three percent water rate increase each year, for the next 5 years.

Sewer rates will go up anywhere from 2.3 to 2.5 percent over the same time period.

GLWA says that wholesale cost increase goes to 88 communities, including Detroit, which then gets passed on to residential customers.

We're told suburban communities will see the highest increases since the water has further to travel. The increase won't be as high for Detroit because of the proximity to treatment plants.

“I know a lot of the residents, especially in this area, are kind of on a fixed income. So when you start slowly increasing rates like that, when somebody is not getting there, ya know, income increased that makes it harder for them to sit here and justify some of the things they do," said Jeremy Wilson, Detroit resident.

Russ Bellant is a former Detroit water plant operator and advocate for fairness in water service.

“Large price increases have been going up year after year, after year, after year without serious attempt to justify it to the public, and it becomes so compounded,” said Russ Bellant, former Detroit water plant operator, advocate.

We took these concerns to the water authority’s interim CEO Suzanne Coffey.

“When you ask the question ‘why increase?,' we’re seeing the same kind of pressures from an inflationary increase as other people see, as we see at our homes,” said Suzanne Coffey, interim CEO of GLWA.

Coffey says the governmental agency’s expenses equals what it charges.

"There isn’t any profit in there. There isn’t any kind of slush money hanging around or anything like that. So every year, we go through a process where we set what we think our expenses are going to be. We set our charges to equal that and so when we do that, we have to take into consideration cost increases," she said.

She said increases in line items like commodities, supply chain pressure, natural disasters affecting suppliers in other parts of the country and keeping up with salaries for the skilled trades help drive the rate increases. Along with Highland Park reportedly not paying its charges.

The Board of Water Commissioners has to take this info and will discuss Detroit customer rates to vote on them in May or June.