CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Public Service Commission has approved an average 8% rate increase in water and sewer rates for West Virginia American Water Company, which is significantly less than the utility was seeking.

West Virginia American, the largest water utility in the state, filed for a 22.5% ($41.2 million) increase last May. The official filing was closer to $44 million after the PSC shifted a portion of the sewer costs to the water side.

The rate increase is also lower because the PSC agreed with the company’s decision to lower its system improvement charge (DSIC) by $10 million.

The PSC said Saturday the average water customer’s bill will increase $5.69 a month, the average sewer customer’s bill $5.59.

The increase took effect Saturday.

Several residents spoke out against the rate hike at a public hearing in November.

Customer Constance Nelson said the full rate hike would be hard on families.

“This rate increase would literally take food out of children’s mouths,” Nelson said. “We are barely, many of us, keeping our heads above water, yet the water company wants to drown us now.”

According to WVAWC, the proposed rate hike was reflection of investments in water and wastewater upgrades that have been made since 2020 and for upgrades projected through February 2025. Those investments total approximately $340 million.

The company defended its proposed hike during a December evidentiary hearing.

“It’s a very common occurrence when we make infrastructure investments and capital improvements, that those then are the main, key drivers for base rate cases,” said Robert Burton, president of West Virginia-American Water, in testimony.

Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper also testified during the evidentiary hearing.

“We’re asking the Public Service Commission to send a strong message and deny this rate increase,” Carper said. “It’s just not right that the water company gets a rate increase every time they ask for it. And they get one every time they ask for it. Not what they asked for because they don’t expect to get that. But they get one every time they ask for it. Perhaps today’s the day that they should not, and send them a message.”

The PSC explained its reasoning for the lower increase in a 53-page filing posted Saturday.

WVAWC has more than 560,000 customers in West Virginia.