High on Louisville Water’s 2019 to-do list is completing the replacement of lead service lines. | Courtesy of Louisville Water

Louisville Water Company’s rates will rise an average of 4 percent for most customers in 2019 after receiving approval from the Board of Water Works Tuesday, which also approved $105 million in capital spending next year.

The average monthly cost for a typical household using 4,000 gallons would be $23.16, up 91 cents from 2018, according to Louisville Water. Last year, the city-owned water company said it expected the 2018 rate to come in at $25.46 a month for a household using 5,000 gallons.

“It’s not apples to apples,” Louisville Water spokeswoman Kelley Dearing Smith said, explaining that the company lowered its typical-usage estimate following a rate study this year. “We want our rates to accurately reflect the consumption we’re seeing.”

A final rate schedule will be completed in December.

Among the factors behind the rate hike are pricier chemicals, depreciation costs and higher power bills. The increased costs are tempered by departments trimming their budgets and a decline in interest spending expected next year, Smith said.

Projected total drinking-water usage for 2019 is 33.4 billion gallons, which is in line with this year.

High on Louisville Water’s 2019 to-do list are the robotic inspection of about 200 miles of water mains with a diameter of 20 inches or more and the replacement of lead service lines.

Louisville Water will spend about $3.1 million on three final projects to replace 1,000 lead service lines, mostly inside the Watterson Expressway. The target is to eliminate the lead lines by 2020.

“We hope to get that done sooner,” Smith said.

Map courtesy of Louisville Water

There is no lead in the water coming from treatment plants, but there is some risk it can get in with certain plumbing materials, according to the company.

The water company doesn’t replace lead lines owned by homeowners but does offer a $1,000 match to help residents complete the work, which typically costs $2,000 or less. So far, not much lead has been found in homeowners’ lines, and very few customers have taken Louisville Water up on the offer, Smith said.

Also, on deck for next year is the continued expansion outside of Louisville proper. Shelbyville will get its first Louisville Water from a new main installed along Interstate 64 next summer.

The company expects to pay a $19.3 million dividend to owner Louisville Metro next year.

Mark R. Long
Louisville native Mark Long is glad to be home after 18+ years away in New York and London. He’s putting his writing and editing experience at The Wall Street Journal to work as a freelancer, digging into stories on infrastructure, transportation, urban design and ecology.