Groveland Community Service District customers will see higher water bills in 30 days.

District directors yesterday unanimously approved a rate hike before an audience of about two dozen customers wanting to know where the extra money would go and why it is needed.

An average GCSD water user who uses about 3,900 gallons can expect his monthly bill to jump from $29.34 to $39.37 by February.

Pine Mountain Lake water users will continue to hand over an additional $6.50 a month to repay a bond for a project serving just that subdivision. The average monthly bill for those residents will jump to $45.87.

When water users receive their bills next month, charges will be broken into three parts: a base charge of $24.47 for an average residence, up from $15.30; a charge of $.13 per 100 gallons of water for up to 4,000 gallons, down from the flat rate of $.36 per 100 gallons; and a debt charge, previously lumped in with the base charge, of $12.60 per month.

A presentation outlined why each charge was necessary for the district's fiscal health, and directors reminded customers that rates had not been raised since 1995.

With growing maintenance costs, state-mandated improvements and bills from previous improvements to be paid, GCSD has a large debt. And the district anticipates taking on more debt this year to meet state regulations.

"One of the concerns folks had with their fire fees was full disclosure," said board President Craig Maxwell. "We're giving you the full picture."

But the water rate increase comes on the heels of last summer's decision to raise sewer rates: The average sewer bill went from $32 to $56.50.

Linda Earhart, a Pine Mountain Lake resident, said that water and sewer rate increases combined with other cost-of-living expenses mean she can no longer afford to live in Groveland.

"I would have rather had you raise it a little every year than boom, all in one month," Earhart said of the sewer rate hike. "I'm going to have to move, basically. With all these increases, I can't afford to live here."