News Feature | December 12, 2017

Water Rate Increases Drive Residents Out Of South Carolina Town

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

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The cost of water in Lake Wylie, SC, is so high that some residents may move out of town.

Sabrina Anthony and husband Martin “bought what they thought was their retirement home in Lake Wylie. Now, they might move because of the high cost of water,” The Herald reported.

“The problem isn’t that they ask for it. The problem is they get it,” she said of the rate increases.

The concerns are a microcosm of water affordability debates playing out across the country. Researchers recently found that within five years, 35 percent of American households may be unable to afford their water bills, Michigan Radio reported.

In Lake Wylie, over 50 residents attended a recent meeting to seek answers from water officials about water and sewer rates.

“Carolina Water officials acknowledged that nobody likes rate increases, but they contend the hikes are needed to pay for system improvements already made. Carolina Water serves about 28,000 people in South Carolina, including more than 9,700 in York County, second only to its service totals in the Columbia area,” the report said.

Robert Yanity of Carolina Water responded to resident concerns.

“That’s part of our model, to come in more regularly with relatively smaller increases, compared to coming in after maybe five years and doubling your rate,” Yanity said, per the report.

Residents say they feel like a “cash cow” for other customers within the water system.

“York County has 33 smaller well systems served by Carolina Water, but most of its customers — largely in Lake Wylie — purchase water the company gets from York County, after York County buys it from the city of Rock Hill. Carolina Water said the typical bill in the Lake Wylie area for combined water and sewer is about $97 a month now,” the report said.

Lake Wylie is hardly alone. In its annual report on the state of the water industry, Black & Veatch analysts wrote that in the U.S., many utility and government leaders are seeing a need to engage customers more deeply about cost issues.

“While public awareness of water quality and water infrastructure is heightened, appetites for increased costs are low in a do more with less political environment,” the report said.

To read more about how utilities charge for water services visit Water Online’s Funding Solutions Center.

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