Proposed water rate hikes could raise Illinois residents' bills by $30 monthly

Water bills for Illinois residents could increase by nearly $30 a month if proposed rate hikes by private water utility companies are approved. However, the state's utilities watchdog says residents can help stop these rate hikes.

"We have families right now that are paying more in fees than in actual water usage, and that is just not right," said State Representative Dagmara "Dee" Avelar of the 85th District.

More than 1.5 million households in Illinois receive water services from one of two private, for-profit companies—Illinois American Water and Aqua Illinois. A state law passed in 2013 allowed private companies to purchase water utilities and pass the acquisition costs onto customers. Since then, 55 sales have been approved, and water customers have paid $402 million for the privatization of their water utilities.

"In recent years, private companies have been aggressively acquiring municipal water systems across the state. Do not be mistaken, these buyouts are driven by profit motives and the consequences for our communities are dire," said State Senator Sue Rezin of the 38th District.

These utilities are now seeking rate hikes, prompting the Citizens Utility Board and state lawmakers from both parties to mobilize and inform customers on how they can oppose the increases. Customers are encouraged to speak out at public meetings scheduled in the coming weeks.

"At a time when many people are overcoming the increased cost of living, a new financial burden is the last thing that we need, especially for working families in my community," said State Representative Nabeela Syed (D-Palatine).

Representative Syed of the 51st District said she’s challenging the proposed $30 a month increase after her community suffered a water disruption last summer.

"Pregnant women were emailing us saying they had no access to water for five days," said Rep. Syed. "A rate hike, especially one this substantial on the heels of that failure, is absolutely inexcusable."

Public meetings addressing the proposed water rate hikes will be held at the following times and locations:

Illinois American Water

  • July 22, 7-9:30 PM: Levy Center – DuPage Township, 251 Canterbury Lane, Bolingbrook
  • July 23, 7-9 PM: Champaign Public Library, Robeson Pavilion Room AB, 200 W. Green Street, Champaign

Aqua Illinois

  • July 29, 7-9 PM: McHenry County College, Luecht Auditorium, 8900 US Highway 14, Crystal Lake
  • August 1, 7-9 PM: Olivet Nazarene University, Wisner Auditorium, One University Ave., Bourbonnais

Aqua Illinois' full statement:

"Aqua is committed to delivering reliable water to our customers across the state. Aqua purchased systems that were nearing the end of their usable life all across Illinois during the past six and a half years and has spent millions of dollars to improve the communities we serve through infrastructure enhancements. Our customers have not seen an increase in rates during that time, but Aqua cannot sustain these continued investments in Illinois water infrastructure alone. Modernization of our shared water infrastructure to ensure continued quality and reliable water delivery to communities requires comprehensive funding and partnership at the local, state and federal levels. These increased rates are part of the solution to reduce the potential for outages to ensure our customers receive the reliable drinking and wastewater services they deserve.

Aqua appreciates the partnership as we work together to make improvements in our local communities."