Evanston is still talking to several communities about supplying them with water — but aldermen were told this week that none of the other towns have yet made any commitments.

Utilities Director Dave Stoneback says consultants hired by Morton Grove, Niles and Park Ridge have told them buying water from Evanston would be cheaper than getting it from Wilmette and Glenview — even after accounting for the higher cost of a supply line from Evanston..

But Wilmette and Glenview only have the capacity to serve Morton Grove and Niles. And if Park Ridge doesn’t join the other two in signing up for Evanston water, the capital cost to the remaining two towns would rise — which is making all the players reluctant to commit.

Stoneback also claimed that Wilmette doesn’t have enough treatment plant capacity to to meet peak day demands for all the proposed customers and that Wilmette, unlike Evanston, hasn’t addressed winter icing issues on its intake pipes that could sharply reduce water production.

He also argued that Wilmette and Glenview have failed to include needed long-term capital improvements in their proposed rates.

Meanwhile, Evanston’s largest current customer, the Northwest Water Commission, has joined with the Northwest Suburban Municipal Joint Action Water Agency to explore piping in water from Glencoe.

But Stoneback says NWC officials have told him that even if they go with that plan to have a second water source, they’ll continue to purchase as much water as possible from Evanston because of Evanston’s low rate.

After several months of silence, Stoneback says, Lincolnwood recently resumed talks with Evanston and has hired an engineering firm to assess its water supply options.

And Evanston recently sent a letter to Skokie, its oldest wholesale water customer, that it will insist on new, higher rates to renew that contract, which is scheduled to expire in February 2017.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said despite the complexity, the expansion of service is worth pursuing, because Evanston stands to earn a 10 percent rate of return on the water it provides other turns — which could help cover capital costs for Evanston’s water plant or other city projects.

Stoneback said that by setting rates based on a formula created by the American Water Works Association the city should be safe from challenges to the fairness of its rates.

He said the City of Chicago — whose recent sharp rate increases have driven other suburban communities to look to Evanston as a possible supplier — has successfully defended a court challenge to its rate hikes by justifying them based on the AWWA formulas.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Water rate mess!
    It seems quite odd the utility department can charge such lower rates than Chicago to new customers and we are such a good deal. Why did the director not discuss with the council charging Skokie higher rates than the so called standards? We are going to get sued?
    They have not present anything that makes sense, as to how they developed the so called rates.
    The NWC will take all of our water it can get for years to come since the rates are so low – we are clearly losing money and the public official and staff will not admit it.
    They keep on presenting the difference in what Chicago will charge and what they want to charge and keep calling it a profit. That is pure nonsense.
    One very scary thing not presented in the story is they now are talking we should help pay for any new piping to the other communities, if its such a good deal why don’t they want to pay for it?
    I realize this is a hard story to explain, but the reality is this mess is not making money and the public officials and staff are moving into a even deeper hole.

  2. More on Water rates
    Why if this is such a profitable business were they talking about raising water, another 20% after this years increase of 10%. They transfer out $3 million dollars why aren’t they using this to keep from raising water bills.
    If you look closely at the mess, they are keeping going by not doing the necessary capital repair to the distribution system. replacing 1% of 100 year old water pipe a year just does not cut it.
    Also they keep on changing the story on the water plant expansion – now they can sell the water with no expansion, I am waiting to hear how they now need a new resevior, since there is not increase in capacity needed, why not fix the tank for $3 million versus $30 million?

  3. Another water department mess for Monday night
    Looking at the council packet for monday night’s meeting, they have another project behind schedule and over budget. They will ofcourse have their excuses. The recent SCADA project had numerous change orders for schedule then a final one for more money. The transpondor project was late so almost 10% if not more of the residents were getting estimated bills with the city covering it up. Now Wally is talking we should pay to run a project for the new pipe to supply other customers, if you can’t even have your own projects work which are a few million dollars, monday nights is a couple hundred thousand over how are you going to run a 30 million project?

    Looks like 100 years of mismanagement at the water department!

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