Howard water rates won't rise this year But increase in Baltimore will cost more in county

March 01, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

The city of Baltimore's plans to raise water rates by 19 percent next month will not affect Howard County residents this year -- even though the county gets much of its water from the city system.

Despite the rate increase for Baltimore households -- announced by the city Wednesday -- there will be no corresponding increase in Howard County water rates until at least next year, said Robert M. Beringer, head of utilities at the county's Department of Public Works.

The reason for the delay in passing on the rate increase to Howard residents is that the county utilities bureau is enjoying a surplus of funds at the moment, he said.

Last summer, lots of county residents watered their gardens during the dry weather -- and they paid for it, by the gallon. "We had a very good year," Mr. Beringer said.

His department also is not filling six of its vacant worker positions -- and that savings will further delay the rate increase for county residents, Mr. Beringer said.

Each year, Howard County buys from Baltimore 6 billion gallons of water, which arrives through four different pipelines. That's the equivalent of about 170,000 residential swimming pools -- enough pools to stretch from Columbia to Houston, Texas, according to numbers calculated by Mr. Beringer.

Water purchased from Baltimore represents about 90 percent of the county's piped-in water supply. The rest comes from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which primarily serves Montgomery and Prince George's counties. WSSC rates are higher than the Baltimore system's, Mr. Beringer said.

In addition, about 20 percent of county residents still draw water from wells, he said.

The county charges residents a minimum of $20.70 a quarter for water and sewerage. The average quarterly charge per household is $62, based on 250 gallons of water used each day, said Michael A. Giovanniello, deputy chief of utilities.

In Baltimore, top elected officials still must approve the planned rate increase, which will hit city residents to the tune of about $60 a year.

The city also will spend more on sewage treatment costs. Ultimately, this also will cost Howard residents.

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