Water Industry News



An administrative law judge has approved an overall rate increase of 15.32 percent for United Water Arkansas' residential customers.

Tuesday's order by Administrative Law Judge Burl Rotenberry approves a June 21 settlement reached between United Water and the general staff of the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

A resident with a 5/8-inch meter now paying $24.57 a month for water will pay $28.37, or $3.80 more, under the new rates, according to the agreement.

Rate increases for residential, industrial and other customers range from 2.1 percent to 17 percent, based on meter size and usage.

The settlement also calls for an annual revenue increase of $920,834 for the water company or about 12.6 percent, and an annual overall rate of return of 5.98 percent.

By law, a utility company is entitled to a reasonable rate of return on its investment, in addition to its expenses.

United Water officials have said the company has not had a rate increase since 1997 and that it needs to keep pace with increasing costs.

Lester Melton, United Water's general manager, said the judge's order was expected and it reinforces the agreement reached with the PSC's general staff.

"We had increased costs and we needed revenue to shore up those costs," he said.

The settlement is not opposed by the Arkansas Attorney General and is "fair, reasonable, in the best interests of the company and its customers," according to the decision.

United Water must file revised tariffs, rate schedules, rules and regulations by today. Once those items are approved by the administrative law judge, the new rates will become effective with bills "rendered on and after July 30, 2004."

"The tariffs formally show what the rates are and how they apply," said Robert Booth, manager of the PSC's Gas and Water Utilities Section.

Once the submitted rates and other items are deemed correct, customers should see the increased water fees in their next bill. The rate hike will affect 19,000 Pine Bluff-area customers.