Make us your home page

New Aqua Utilities rate hike could lower fees in Pasco

Aqua Utilities customers already pay some of the highest water and wastewater rates in Pasco County. Now the utility says it may need to hike the rates — again.

The private utility, which serves Zephyr Shores in east Pasco and Palm Terrace and Jasmine Lakes near Port Richey, told state regulators last month that it will seek "rate relief" for its systems in 18 counties, including Pasco.

A lawyer for Aqua says in a June 15 letter that the company needs the additional revenue to help pay for $8.4 million in capital improvements plus help cover a 16 percent drop in consumption since the Public Service Commission granted Aqua a rate hike last year.

"With the company's current consumption and sales forecasts, and the costs it must incur to provide safe and reliable water and wastewater services, the company return on equity will fall to a negative return without the requested rate relief," lawyer Bruce May wrote to the commission last month. "Faced with these dire conditions, the company has no choice but to seek timely rate relief."

Aqua officials say they're still crunching the numbers and don't know yet what kind of rate increases they'll be seeking. They expect to submit those figures by September.

Whatever they may be would come on top of the eye-popping hikes that went into effect in April 2009.

Those increases sent the typical water and sewer bill for a Palm Terrace customer to $118 from $65 and for a Zephyr Shores customer to $118 from $91. A Jasmine Lakes customer who uses about 5,000 gallons a month saw his monthly bill increase to $93 from $50, according to figures provided by the Public Service Commission.

But Jack Lihvarcik, president of the Pennsylvania-based utility's Florida division, said Tuesday that Aqua's latest request could result in a rate decrease for customers in Pasco. He said that's because Aqua wants to make its 40,000 statewide customers pay the same rates. In the last rate case, the Public Service Commission grouped the systems into four levels, each with a different rate.

The Pasco systems are grouped with the smallest operations, which would owe less if the costs are spread out among all the systems, he said.

"It'll level (out) everything," he said. "The impact to the smaller systems would be a lot less."

When it made its last rate request in 2008, Aqua asked for hikes that were worth $8.4 million for its 80-plus systems throughout the state. The Public Service Commission approved rates expected to make a little more than $6 million.

Aqua officials say that consumption plunged by nearly 16 percent from the commission's original calculations. The utility attributes that drop to the recent installation of private irrigation wells; one system in Lake County alone had nearly 140 wells.

The result, the company says, is that water volume sales aren't producing enough revenue to cover its costs.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at or (727) 869-6247.

New Aqua Utilities rate hike could lower fees in Pasco 07/06/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 8:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  3. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  4. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags


    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]