By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau
LIHUE, Kauai The Board of Water Supply yesterday approved a water rate increase that will almost double the average residential users bill by mid-2003.
The new rate will increase the cost of water for an average residential user by 26 percent starting July 1, and by 66 percent higher than the present rates in mid-2003, including both an increased basic service fee and a per-gallon fee hike. For an average residential user, using about 10,000 gallons a month, the new rate will increase the water bill (which residents pay every two months) from $47.60 now to $60 on July 1 and to $79.20 on July 1, 2003.
Board members said the department has an immediate, critical need to upgrade aging water lines, to develop new water sources and to build storage tanks.
Agricultural users were scheduled to take a double hit, with an increase in the rates and a decrease in the subsidy for high-use agricultural customers.
Farmer Ken Martin said the wholesale price for papayas is the same today that it was in 1974, and farmers without a way to increase revenue cannot afford higher water costs. Farmer and Kauai Farm Bureau representative Roy Oyama said farmers help keep the islands rural, green look that is attractive to tourists and residents alike, and deserve a subsidy for doing so.
Kauai Planning Director Dee Crowell, a member of the water board, agreed. "I think to the individual farmer, this makes a big difference. I think its important that we show some support for agriculture," Crowell said.
But board Chairwoman Carol Suzawa questioned whether residential users should subsidize farmers. "I need water to live, and I dont make a profit from it," she said.
Officials insisted the rate hikes were necessary. "Theres a lot of catching up to do. We need to find a way to get these things done," said water department Manager Ernest Lau.
Department consultant Richard Cuthbert, of the firm R.W. Beck and Co., said the department expects to finance the new construction with $51.8 million over the next five years. While most of the projects will be paid for from current revenues, an estimated $20.9 million will be borrowed. He said rates had to be raised to make the necessary borrowing possible.
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