As area utilities get ready for growing season, how much can CT residents expect to pay for water use this summer?

Photo of Luther Turmelle

For most of Connecticut, spring and summer months are peak usage periods for the state’s water utilities.

As a result, customers maintaining a lush, green lawn, slaking the thirst of garden vegetables or washing a car may end up paying higher premiums from Aquarion Water in Bridgeport, Connecticut Water Co. in Clinton and the Regional Water Authority in New Haven.

Two factors are involved in determining what residential customers pay: how much water is used, and the rate that the utilities charge.

Connecticut Water Co. serves 105,000 customers, or about 350,000 people, in 60 towns statewide, including parts of the Shoreline and the Naugatuck Valley. The average Connecticut Water residential customer currently pays $157 per quarter for using 11,342 gallons per quarter through July.

The state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), however, is currently considering a Connecticut Water Co. rate increase. If approved as proposed, that would increase customers’ bills by 35 cents a day to about $189 per quarter, according to company spokesman Dan Meaney.

The proposal also includes an inclining block rate structure that would add a second pricing tier for any amount used above 5,000 gallons per month, according to Meaney, for an additional cost of $1.00 per thousand gallons.

Any rate approved by PURA — regulators are expected to issue their ruling in late July — would take effect after that, Meaney said.

The South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority serves almost 430,000 people in 15 cities and towns in the New Haven area. The typical family of four uses about 200 gallons of water a day, and will pay about $56 per month, according to Dan Doyle, a spokesman for the quasi-public utility. That is unchanged from last summer.

“We often see an increase in water use during the summer months, which affects the amounts billed to our customers,” Doyle said. “Approximately 40 percent of the water used by the average homeowner during the warm weather months is used outdoors.”

Doyle said the RWA’s reservoir’s were at 89 percent of capacity when measured at the end of February; at that time of year, the reservoirs are typically only at 82 percent of capacity.

Unlike Aquarion and Connecticut Water, the Authority’s rates are determined by a representative policy board, which is made up of individuals from each of the towns the utility serves.

Aquarion, which is a subsidiary of Eversource Energy, serves 625,000 people in 52 cities and towns throughout Connecticut.

Peter Fazekas, a spokesman for Aquarion, said from May to October last year, the median customer bill in the utility’s eastern division — more than three dozen towns in Fairfield, Litchfield and New Haven counties — was $58.29 per month.

Much of last summer was spent with the three utilities urging careful usage, as drought-like conditions gripped much of Connecticut. But coming out of winter, Connecticut Water’s reservoirs are full, according to Meaney.

“We can’t handle anymore,” he said.

Fazekas said the utility’s reservoirs are divided into three groupings. The largest — the Bridgeport system — is at 99.9 percent of capacity.

The Greenwich system is at 89.1 percent capacity, he said, while the Stamford system is at 84.7 percent of capacity.

On Wednesday, Aquarion introduced its mandatory sprinkler irrigation schedule for nine towns in its service territory.

Last year’s schedule was implemented in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, Newtown and Westport, according to Fazekas. This year, East Granby, Granby and Simsbury are being added.

The utility’s customers in those towns can only water their lawns twice a week, with the schedule determined by a homeowner’s street number.

Residents in all nine towns covered by the sprinkler irrigation schedule with even-numbered addresses can water their lawns on Sundays and Wednesdays from 12:01 a.m. to 10 a.m., or 6 p.m. to midnight. Odd-numbered addresses can water on Saturdays and Tuesdays from either 12:01 a.m. to 10 a.m., or 6 p.m. to midnight.

Anyone with no home address number can water their lawns on Sundays and Wednesdays from 12:01 a.m. to 10 a.m. or 6 p.m. to midnight.

The timetable is designed to ensure that local water supplies remain sufficient for critical needs, including human consumption and fire protection, according to Fazekas.

“These conservation efforts have also helped towns in southwestern Connecticut avoid a complete ban on outdoor water use during dry summer months,” he said. “Through customer adoption of the irrigation schedule, Aquarion expects to save millions of gallons of water this year.”

Homes and businesses with automatic sprinkler irrigation systems often use large volumes of water - about 40 percent more than properties without the systems.

The permanent, twice-weekly irrigation schedule, which started in 2017, launched on Thursday.

Aquarion officials have patrols in the communities they serve. If a customer is found to be using an irrigation system on a day that is not permitted, they will receive a written notice from the company.

Aquarion is allowed to disconnect service as a punishment for repeated violations, but Fazekas said that has never happened.

“We try to work with the customer to resolve the issue,” he said.

luther.turmelle@hearstmediact.com