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Water bills go up in down economy as usage drops

Apr 4, 2010 1:42:00 PM - thestate.com
The grim economy is hitting some consumers in the wallet in yet another way: their water bills.

Many water utilities are raising rates because water use is down, in part because manufacturers have closed or are cutting back, tourism has fallen and the real estate market is in the doldrums.

Water sales for the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport & Wells Water District in southern Maine fell 11 percent last year, to 1995 levels. The No. 1 reason is the sour economy, said superintendent Norm Labbe.

One of the utility's largest customers, a catalog printer, shut its doors last year, putting 374 people out of work. Tourism also has been down - meaning fewer tourists are taking showers and flushing toilets in the motels in the region's beachside communities.

"This is happening most everywhere. It's a regional thing, it's a national thing," Labbe said. "Many, many (water utilities) around the country are seeing decreases in revenues. Because if industry goes down, revenues go down."