- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - Hikes in utility rates are expected in Dubuque, in part because of a new water conservation plan.

Water use has declined about 4 percent, thanks in part to new and more efficient meters, according to a report from the City Council. But the city is required to ensure that utility fees generate a certain amount of revenue each year for debt-service purposes.

But the bigger reasons for the rate hike stem from a tank replacement project, which Dubuque undertakes roughly once every 20 years, and environmental factors, said Cori Burbach, the city’s sustainable communities coordinator.

Burbach said that despite playing a small role in the planned rate increase, water conservation efforts still are considered beneficial to the consumer and the community at large.

“We’re still giving people information so that they can make choices to reduce use,” she said. “I want residents to understand those other, large components that make up rates as well.”

City manager Mike Van Milligen said he will seek utility rate increases for water and sewer services starting with the next fiscal year.

The city installed new water meters in 2012, and launched a water conservation pilot program. The meters and the accompanying software allowed customers to see how much water was being consumed in their houses in 15-minute increments.

According to Chris Kohlmann, the city’s information services director, 550 residents have signed up for the program. The new meters proved to be so good at reading water use that they detected leaks that would have gone unnoticed by the old meters, thus reducing usage by cutting down on waste.

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