Large water rate increase up for council vote

Business coalition opposes boost that would raise money for projects

Portland's City Council will vote Wednesday on a proposal that could raise city water rates by as much as 85 percent in five years largely to pay for about $500 million worth of projects urged by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The vote is part of a budget package presented to the council at 9:30 a.m. in City Hall, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave.

If approved, the increase would mean a typical residential water customer using 6 hundred cubic feet per month would pay $27.85, up 12.9 percent from the current bill of $24.66. A medium-sized commercial customer using 200 cubic feet of water each month would see his or her water bill increase from $571.39 to $645.19, also about 12.9 percent.

The new rates are expected to raise about $109.2 million a year for the city in residential sales, and about $16.4 million for wholesale revenue.

A group of Portland businesses, known as the Portland Water Users Coalition, opposes the rate increases, saying many of the EPA-recommended projects are not needed.

City water rates have increased nearly every year since 1991, with some residential customers paying more than $50 a month.

Some of the money also has been diverted for use on projects outside the city's water bureau, according to a recent city audit.