ROCKPORT, Maine — The Maine Public Utilities Commission has approved a 6.62 percent overall increase in water rates for Aqua Maine’s Camden and Rockland Division, effective Sept. 1.

The increase is the first for Aqua Maine’s 7,700-customer division since June 2006 and is driven primarily by the replacement of aging infrastructure throughout the system.

Water rates have increased less than 2 percent annually in the last 10 years, well below the rate of inflation over this period, said Aqua Maine President Judy Kelley in a press release.

“While carefully managing our expenses, Aqua has continued to focus on replacing aging infrastructure, investing more than $1 million in system improvements over the past two years,” Kelley said.

The increase, which is applicable to all Camden and Rockland Division customers, will increase the average quarterly bill for a customer using 2,000 cubic feet of water, or about 15,000 gallons, by $5.47 (6 cents a day) to $85.08. Most residential customers will continue to pay less than $1 a day for direct home delivery of 165 gallons of water.

Future investments are being planned for the division, Kelley said. In the summer of 2009, a new water storage tank will be completed, replacing a tank that is more than 80 years old, improving reliability, quality and flow.

Also in 2009, Aqua will begin another major capital project involving a $6.5 million filtration addition to the Mirror Lake treatment facility, which will further improve water quality for residents.

“Although the water has been unfiltered for 120 years, we must begin to filter the water to comply with new federal and state drinking water regulations. Looking ahead, adding filtration now is the best option for our customers,” said Kelley. The $6.5 million addition is expected to be on line in late summer of 2010.

From 2006 to 2010, Aqua will have invested $10 million to replace aging infrastructure and comply with new environmental regulations while the customer will benefit from improved system reliability and water quality. The new water storage tank and filtration plant will require future rate requests. Aqua has applied for low-interest state loans to help offset the amount of those requests.

The Camden and Rockland Division serves customers in the communities of Rockland, Rockport, Camden, Thomaston, Owls Head, Union and Warren and is one of 20 Maine water systems owned or operated by Aqua Maine.