You Ask, We Investigate: Water Bills - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

You ask, we investigate: Water Bills

Utility company says they must cover fixed costs. Utility company says they must cover fixed costs.

You ask, we investigate. This time - a question about water bills for vacant homes.

Viewer Ann Oliver is upset she was being charged $44 a month for basic water and sewer service, even though she hadn't used a drop of water in her rental home in months.

In case you are not familiar, her utility provider, Aqua, is a for-profit company serving households in New Hanover County communities like The Cape and Beau Rivage that are not served by the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority.

The $44 basic rate Aqua charges is considerably higher than the $27 monthly rate CFPUA charges customers who are not actively utilizing water and sewer service.

Aqua president Tom Roberts explained they don't have the same economies of scale that large providers like the CFPUA do, and they have fixed costs whether or not customers are actually using the water.

Aqua policy is to charge customers like Ann the base facility charge of $45 a month, unless a house has been vacant for nine consecutive months.

There are not many private companies in our area comparable to Aqua. However, we did find that Carolina Water Service, a similar company serving customers in Pender and Onslow Counties, charges customers a base fee of $30 a month.

These rates are regulated by the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

Although the rates may seem steep for customers not using any water, it could be worse. One company in North Carolina charges customers a base fee of $87 a month.

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