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Water: The paradox of thrift

Evanston residents have done a pretty good job of reducing their water usage in recent years, but they’re likely to soon have to give back some of their savings in the form of higher rates.

Evanston residents have done a pretty good job of reducing their water usage in recent years, but they’re likely to soon have to give back some of their savings in the form of higher rates.

This chart from a city staff report shows the decline in water usage since 1999 and the staff’s projection of future usage through 2017.

City staff told aldermen this week that Evanstonians have cut their water usage by nearly 19 percent since 2005.

Other communities have experienced similar declines as residential and commercial users have installed low-flow toilets and taken other conservation measures.

But water and sewer rates have stayed the same during that time, draining the system’s reserves and leaving the the city with insufficient funds to make what utility department officials see as essential capital improvements to the water and sewer systems.

So, they told the aldermen at a special meeting Monday night, that rates are likely to have to be increased by at least five percent by next year.

That would move Evanston’s combined water and sewer rates from the fifth most expensive among 16 north suburban communities studied, to the third most costly, assuming none of the other towns change their rates.

The staff report outlined a number of options for handling the increase and City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that based on feedback from the aldermen they’d come back with a more detailed proposal this fall.

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