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City eyes boost in water prices

SHANGHAI residents may soon see their water bills spurt skyward by 40 percent or even more.

The Shanghai Development and Reform Commission yesterday unveiled for public comment two proposals to raise water bills, which have been frozen for years and are among some of the lowest in the nation.

An increase in residential water rates would be used to help defray the mounting spending on infrastructure improvements by local water utilities, which suffered a combined loss of 460 million yuan (US$67.3 million) last year, officials said.

In one proposal, water prices would be raised to 2.8 yuan per cubic meter: 1.63 yuan for actual water use and 1.3 yuan for discharges. The discharge fee is calculated based on 90 percent of the volume used.

In another proposal, a graduated pricing system would be introduced under which residents would pay 2.61 yuan per cubic meter for the first 15 cubic meters used in one month, which is the average consumption among local households. The charge would rise to 3.92 yuan for amounts in excess of 15 cubic meters and escalate to 5.22 yuan for use above 25 cubic meters.

But the second plan faces technical difficulties, as many Shanghai families share a single water meter.

Local residents now pay 1.84 yuan for each per cubic meter of water, which breaks down to 1.03 yuan for the water and 0.9 yuan for discharges.

The local water rate hasn't changed for more than seven years while the discharge fee was last adjusted in July 2004.

Other major cities have raised water charges in recent years, leaving Shanghai's charges comparatively low. The total water bill, including charges for commercial use, averages 3.77 yuan among 36 major Chinese cities, against 2.54 yuan in Shanghai, the commission said.

It didn't give a national average for residential charges, but according to a Shanghai Daily investigation, residents in Nanjing are paying 2.8 yuan per cubic meter effective this month, up from 2.5 yuan, while people in Beijing pay 3.7 yuan.

The two proposals are scheduled to be discussed at a public hearing on April 27, which will be attended by 21 representatives, including government officials and 10 consumers.


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