How PECO and Aqua's Equipment Changes Affect the Main Line

Editor Hobart RowlandI’ve been noticing a spike in my water bill lately, though I’m pretty sure it has something to do with my 10-year-old daughter’s newfound hygiene habits. A kid that used to bathe a few times a week tops is now singing away daily beneath a steady stream of hot water provided by Aqua Pennsylvania. Sometimes twice a day.

During our last billing cycle, we went through 4,200 gallons of H2O. That’s an average daily usage of 140 gallons a day. Not sure how bad that is compared to the rest of you, but I’m thinking it’s a good thing we don’t live in the Desert Southwest.

Aqua’s going rate is $0.009071 per gallon for the first 2,000 gallons and $0.010352 per gallon for the rest. That doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up. Tack on Aqua’s $16 customer charge, and the grand total of our January bill was just south of $57. (Suddenly, I feel bloated.)

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With no competition to speak of, Aqua is in a sweet spot. And with the massive improvements the company recently completed to its delivery systems throughout the region, it aims to stay exactly where it is. That means we’re likely to keep seeing biannual rate bumps like the 4.1-percent increase that took effect this past June.

In this month’s feature, “Surviving the Elements,” Living Well editor Melissa Jacobs does a bang-up job of detailing the massive infrastructure overhauls orchestrated by Aqua and PECO (you might’ve heard of them, too). Combined, the investment involved amounts to more than $200 million. “It was on the third morning of jackhammering that I marched out my front door to ask the squad of construction workers exactly what they were doing and when they planned to stop doing it,” says Jacobs regarding her initial inspiration for the piece. “From those first questions came five months of investigating our water and gas infrastructure.”

It was time well spent. Jacobs demystifies the technology and the controversies as she goes beyond the flooded streets and hastily patched roadways to detail the long-term implications for residents throughout the state. And she couldn’t do so without addressing the much-publicized debate over fracking, the process by which natural gas is extracted from the Marcellus Shale in northern and western Pennsylvania. Currently, it’s where 17 percent of PECO’s supply originates—and that number is expected to increase. Environmentalists view fracking’s potential to foul the air and water as untenable, while the natural-gas industry believes the economic benefits far outweigh the risks. The back-and-forth is likely to continue unabated.

“Before this, I’d have yawned at the idea of reporting on utilities,” Jacobs admits. “Now, I’m fascinated. I didn’t love the noise outside my window, but I did love reporting on an issue that directly impacts me, my neighbors and our readers.”

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