Wichita residents probably will see their water rates go up almost every year through 2015, and stormwater rates will also probably increase.
The increases, coming in 3 to 5 percent increments, are part of a 10-year capital improvement plan approved by the Wichita City Council on Tuesday.
The $2.5 billion plan includes dozens of road projects, a new airport terminal and renovations at Century II, Westlink Library and other facilities.
Each water rate hike would be voted on separately, so the proposed increases aren't certain.
Council member Lavonta Williams said she's concerned about the combined impact of increases residents have to endure not only from City Hall but from utility companies and commercial businesses.
"All of our utilities say it's just a minute amount," she said. "But all of those minute amounts add up."
The increases will pay for many projects, but the most expensive is the continuation of the aquifer recharge project, which seeks to take overflow water from the Little Arkansas River north of Wichita, purify it and store it in the Equus Beds aquifer.
That project also helps push back salty underground water that could merge with the aquifer and make it more difficult and expensive to use.
"It's harder for people in today's economy, I know, to accept the increases in water rates for something we really don't benefit from for another 10, 15, 20, 30 years," City Manager Robert Layton said. "At the same time, if we don't take this action, we're really going to find ourselves in a box, and one that will be very difficult and very expensive to get out of."
According to the long-term budget, water rates would increase by 5 percent from 2011 to 2013, then by 3 percent in 2014 and 2015, and 2 percent in 2016.
Three 25-cent increases in the stormwater fee would happen in 2012, 2013 and 2015. That would pay for another $51 million in drainage projects.
Council member Jeff Longwell said the city will need to more closely examine how the stormwater increases would affect businesses large and small.
"I think we have to be extremely careful, obviously, in today's climate at putting any additional burdens on businesses," he said.