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Flint is on track to have $100 water bills in 5 years, state says

Inside the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Inside the Flint water treatment plant.

Flint's water rates are on track to double in the next five years – even though the city already pays some of the highest water rates in the country.

That was a big takeaway at a meeting today of the team charged with overseeing Flint’s recovery. 

Right now, the typical water bill in Flint is $53.84 a month. But it could be $101.95 in five years, if nothing changes.

That’s because of the growing gap between what Flint’s water system costs, and the city’s shrinking customer base.

The water system was built to serve 200,000 people, but the current population is closer to 100,000. And the operating costs are fairly fixed, and don’t decrease as the city’s customers use less water.

Plus, the city has historically had to maintain its own treatment plant as a back-up, on top of buying water wholesale from Detroit’s water system – which means the city has “effectively been paying for two water sources,” according to a recent state-funded report by Raftelis Financial Consultants.

Then there’s the water loss

Some 50 to 60% of the water the city pumps through its’ system is lost, whether due to legitimate reasons like flushing the water system or fighting fires; or due to breaking pipes, leaking, and theft.

The city will also have to pay monthly debt service costs for the new KWA pipeline.

While the city hasn't announced any plans to raise rates, officials says they need to figure out ways to reduce operating costs in the long term, and start dealing with infrastructure issues - like leakage - as soon as possible. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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