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Illinois’ two biggest private water companies push for rate hikes

Last year’s rate-hike barrage was bad enough, but now water companies want in on the action. CUB learned this week that Illinois American Water and Aqua Illinois both want rate increases.

Aqua Illinois on Jan. 17 filed a $19.2 million rate-hike request with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). Aqua estimated that it would increase the average residential wastewater and water bill (4,000 gallons) by $29.91 per month, or about $1 a day. The company told WCIA-TV in Champaign that customers who get only water service would see their bill go up by $8.50 a month, or $102 a year. (The ICC Docket Number for the case is 24-0044.)

“A rate hike of up to $30 a month is painfully excessive–and will be a hardship for Aqua customers,” CUB said in a statement. “Aqua’s parent company has raked in $828 million in profits over the last two years, which begs the question of why the water utility needs to burden its customers with a punishing rate hike.”

Then, Illinois American Water, which serves about 1.3 million customers in Illinois, announced that it also was asking for a $152.4 million rate hike. “Illinois American’s $152 million rate-hike request is severe and greedy—the company is pushing for an excessive profit rate for its shareholders—and CUB will do everything it can to reduce it,” CUB said in a statement. “This punishing rate hike will be a hardship to consumers who depend on the utility for a vital service–and that’s why we’re challenging the company’s money-grab. ”

The utility said the hike would increase water service bills by an average of about $24 per month, while the average residential wastewater bill would increase by about $5 per month, depending on the customer’s service area.

CUB has long been concerned about high bills charged by both companies, fueled by favorable state laws:

  • The companies won legislative approval to add a “Qualifying Infrastructure Plant” surcharge to bills that has needlessly increased costs for customers. (Remember, for years we dealt with the QIP on gas bills–it got up to about $15 a month on Peoples Gas bills and sparked a heating-affordability crisis in Chicago–until it sunset at the end of 2023. Unfortunately, the water QIP has no sunset.)
  • Also, state law allows both companies to buy up depreciated water and wastewater systems across the state, and charge their customers to cover the acquisition costs. CUB Water Tracker, our special online center monitoring the problem, found that these for-profit companies have purchased 56 systems since 2013, when state legislators passed a law that allows these water utilities to pass acquisition costs—$402 million and counting—onto their customers.

CUB has been fighting for legislative reforms to fix both problems for water customers.  On top of it, Aqua, which serves about 273,000 customers in central and northern Illinois, has had some well-publicized service problems–including unacceptable levels of lead in drinking water in University Park in 2019, a water outage in Lake County in 2023 and the recent boil order in the Danville area. Back in the summer of 2023, CUB Director of Governmental Affairs Bryan McDaniel wrote in a Daily Herald letter to the editor: “The recent Aqua Illinois water outage/boil order in Lake County is further evidence that private corporate monopolies are not the answer to our water infrastructure needs.”

So the fight for the rights of water customers across Illinois continues. While we work for legislative reforms, CUB will challenge the current rate hikes and fight to reduce them as much as possible. To support CUB’s work…