Tucson residents will begin seeing larger water bills this summer after the City Council recently approved changes to the water rate schedule to close an 8.3 percent gap in Tucson Water's FY 2013 budget.

The increases will take effect July 2.

According to Tucson Water's business service administrator, Belinda Oden, the average resident who uses 10 Ccfs (around 7,480 gallons) per month will see his or her bill increase approximately 44 cents, from a current average of $24.73 to $25.17.

Oden said 67 percent of Tucson Water's customers will fall into this category.

For residential customers who rarely close the tap and consume 31 Ccfs or more, their bills could rise anywhere between $18.98 and $47.15 a month.

Businesses will also be affected by the change. Depending on the class in which they fall, their monthly bills could increase between $12.81 and $45.32.

Part of the increase will be allocated to the city's 24/7 fire-protection capacity, which City Councilman Steve Kozachik said is integral to maintaining emergency fire service in the city.

"It's important for people to know that the service charge goes to more than just administration and some secretary sitting around writing bills," Kozachik said. "It's not just an administrative fee. It's going to something significant."

Despite the increase, Councilwoman Karin Uhlich said Tucson Water still maintains one of the lowest monthly water bills in the area.

"Tucson Water remains the lowest-cost water utility in this region and is really doing, I think, a good job of drawing down our allocation of CAP water," Uhlich said during the May 22 council meeting. "And they are becoming known not only in the state but nationally as well for managing our resources."

As proof of Tucson Water's success, Uhlich said, by the end of this year the utility will have one year of water reserve in our system to protect against droughts and other interruptions.

"(This) is pretty much unheard of in a desert community," she said at the meeting. "I can imagine nothing stronger for our economic-development case in enticing employers and people to join this economy than saying we mange our water well."

For more information, visit www.cms3.tucsonaz.gov/water

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at ddaronco@azstarnet.com or 573-4243.