By Sarah Starr

The residents of Santa Cruz received a water bill this month with a 12.5 percent increase in rates, which will continue to rise in the next two years.

Last month, the City Council held a public hearing to approve the rates increase adopted in July 2004. The resolution commenced in January 2005, with the first increase in prices. The resolution calls for an increase on water rates, but by a declining percentage each year and with a final increase in January 2009.

The plan was adopted to help pay for the replacement of aging infrastructure in order to produce better water efficiency usage. This was seen with the project on Bay and High Street, which was successfully completed in the latter part of 2006.

According to Bill Kocher, the director of the Water Department in Santa Cruz, some of the extra money is also applied toward environmental efforts.

"The value of water is not seen," Kocher said. "Part of the profits from the rate increase go directly back to the water conversation awareness efforts."

According to a national study conducted by United States Geological Survey, the average person uses about 80 gallons of water per day. The Santa Cruz City Council hopes to lower the water usage by informing people of conservation methods.

Many students that live in residential areas can also feel the rate increase on their wallet.

"The water rate increase seems like a good plan, but I feel that the actual rate is too high," said Andrea Elzy, a UCSC alumna who lives off Highland Street. "I’m a student who is paying back loans and every dollar counts."

Some resort to shorter showers and not watering their lawns, but many find it difficult to significantly lower the costs of their water bills.

The city has set up a program, the Home Water Survey, where residents can have an employee from the conservation department visit their homes to evaluate their water usage-thus offering solutions to decrease usage. The first step is to check pipes to make sure there is no leakage.

Beverly Downey, a resident of Nobel Drive for 30 years, recycles her water in order to help both her bank account and the environment.

Said Downey, "When the shower is heating up we put a bucket underneath to catch the cold water, and then we use it to water our plants."

There have also been talks among the City Council of an increase on sewage rates for the future. For more information on how to reduce your high water bill, go to