Fresno Public Works Director Patrick Weimiller explained the need for rate hikes to the council on Thursday.
"The only way we are going to meet the future water needs is if we improve and we expand and we build."
Weimiller told the council the city needs to build a new nearly $300 million surface water treatment plant, and spend $100 million on other improvements because some wells were running dry or pumping contaminated water. The plant would be in addition to one the city already has in place, purifying river water.
Under the proposal water rates would jump more than $8 a month next year rising over four years to more than $48 dollars a month.
Local civic activist and former Fresno County Supervisor Doug Vagim told the council the cost burden should only be placed on new development.
"I say the people who want to grow in this town ought to pay for it coming in. Let the lots be assessed as they are now. You haven't even explored that."
But Mike Prandini, who represents the local building industry, said everybody should pay.
"Although the development community will be paying a good portion of any new water treatment plants the users have a responsibility to pay their fair share of that also because they will be receiving water out of that plant too not just new development."
The debate on water rates is now open. Public hearings are being planned and the rate increase is expected to come to a council vote in September.