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Increased Water Rates Could Be Next Step in Raleigh's Drought Battle

Raleigh leaders are considering a 50 percent surcharge in water customers' bills – the latest way to save the city's dwindling water supply.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The Raleigh City Council's Public Works Committee is considering a 50 percent surcharge on water customers' bills – the latest way to save the city's dwindling water supply by making consumption costly.

The rate increase would be temporary, and leaders believe it would help cut use among water customers in municipalities that buy water from the city.

"We believe they will, based on the experience other communities have had," Public Utilities Director Dale Crisp said.

At least one board member, however, has reservations about whether the proposal will affect customers and whether it will help conserve what's left of the city's 116-day water supply (as of Wednesday).

"Isn't this the kind of a surcharge that is going to be more of an impact on people with low incomes than it is on people with high incomes," Councilman Russ Stephenson said. "And for them, is a 50 percent surcharge even going to be noticeable? Is that going to incentivize any conservation behavior at all?"

Instead, Stephenson would like to see a tiered system in which customers who use the most water pay at a higher rate.

The problem, however, is that the software that produces Raleigh water bills is not designed to handle a tiered system.

Stephenson said there might be a way to make an upgrade sooner than later, but the City Council has held off on the idea of a tiered system.

The Public Works Committee wants to consider all available options before making a recommendation to the council.

Wake County municipalities that purchase water from Raleigh – Garner, Knightdale, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell and Zebulon – would be affected by whatever the council decides.