GREENSBORO, N.C. - Raising water rates is on the city budget agendas of Winston-Salem and Greensboro. And the UNC School of Government says 40 percent of water districts raised rates last year. The average increase was $1.27 a month. The city of Greensboro is looking at raising your water rates slightly more than that -- a 4 percent increase. For the average user, that's about $1.50 more per month. Almost $20 extra a year. And you can expect to pay that much extra for at least the next two decades. Why? To prevent more costly water main breaks like one on Wendover Ave on Black Friday.
You see - Greensboro has 1647 miles of aging water lines. Stretched end to end - that's from Greensboro to Denver. And most of the pipes have to be replaced.
For the next year crews are focused on the Star Mount area. Engineers predict problems from the neighborhood's clay pipes. Water Director Steve Drew says the clay pipes aren't made as well as the old metal ones from the 1920s serving downtown. So the newer waterways must be replaced first.
"It's important to start your rehab in the areas that need it first. So there is a risk assessment and there is a way of looking at it," Drew said.
The assessment is done by Looking at the system from underground. Crews snake a camera down to find pierced pipes, leaky lines and roots
On Grendel street, the city is lining the pipes with a fancy plastic. With regular maintenance, the liner will hopefully last at least 100 years. Most of the city's problem pipes should be replaced within 20 years. That means two decades of higher water bills.
"And then our spending can begin to taper off and drop as we become more maintenance oriented instead of replacement oriented," Drew said.
But neighbors 2 Wants To Know talked with have a rosy outlook about footing the bill and feeling an impact.
"You can feel the vibration when they drill the cement. A cloud of dust is raise when they go by my house. A portapotty is not my idea of good landscaping. But it has to be, and I'm very thankful to have gotten the upgrade," neighbor Kristin Myles said.
Right now the city engineers aren't sure where they'll focus after the Starmont area. They plan to decide that in the next six months or so.