Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to hike water rates 90 percent for the 130 suburban communities that get their water from the city may create an opening for Evanston to pick up more customers for its water utility.

Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told aldermen at a budget workshop over the weekend that he and Utilities Director Dave Stoneback have been working “for the better part of two years” with communities Evanston now sells water to encourage them to increase their delivery capacity.

“I believe the groundwork we’ve laid will now encourage the Northwest Water Commission to expand its membership,” Bobkiewicz said.

The Des Plaines-based commission currently serves Arlington Heights Buffalo Grove, Palatine and Wheeling and buys its water from Evanston.

Evanston also supplies water to Skokie, and Bobkiewitz has been exploring the possibility of working with Skokie to extend water lines to adjoining communities, including Lincolnwood.

Bobkiewcitz has argued in the past that Evanston could provide water more inexpensively to neighboring communities than Chicago does, even at current rates.

The city manager notes that because of declining water usage levels in the communities it already serves, the city has unused capacity at its water plant.

He argues that contracts with additional communities could bring in more revenue to help fund needed water infrastructure projects.

However, existing Evanston deals to sell water to other communities have been criticized in the past as locking in the city to sell water at a price that doesn’t fully recover its costs.

Evanston now charges Skokie about $1 per 1,000 gallons and the Northwest Water Commission about 60-cents.

Under Emanuel’s plan, the charge to suburbs for Chicago water would rise to nearly $4 per 1,000 gallons by 2015.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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