Increases in Oahu's water and sewer fees have the Board of Water Supply overwhelmed with customers who say they cannot afford to pay their bills.
Board of Water Supply spokesperson Kurt Tsue said, "We have been receiving an increased amount of calls. What we are finding is a lot of customers are having trouble paying their bills."
Tsue said they are receiving 600 to 700 calls every day. Many are asking for payment arrangements, as customers struggle to come up with an additional nine percent for their water bills, and four percent for sewer.
Customer John Santiago said, "Water shouldn't be that high, but I know that we are trying to conserve water."
Several customers we talked to say when they call the water board, the wait time is so long, they give up.
Customer Yvetter Aiona said, "I tried calling and complaining, but also you can hardly get through to the line, and there's no response back when you do call."
The board says they are trying to help customers through these hard economic times. Calls are lasting longer to avoid cutting off water supplies.
Tsue said, "We've increased our temporary call center staff, and in addition to that we also have online options now that customers can do self-service."
The increased water rate changes are set for the next five years. Tsue said that will add about three to four dollars to your water bill each month.
"The water and sewer; that's why the increases were proposed, so that we can do more projects to renew the aging water system," said Tsue.
The water board said there will also be a new billing system beginning in January 2013.
Customers will be charged monthly instead of bimonthly. The agency said the change should help customers adjust their payments.
The water board said it's also working to launch more online options, including bill pay, to move callers to the web and cut down on telephone wait times.