An increase in water rates set to take effect this summer in Puerto Rico could be as much 40 percent, the president of state-owned utility AAA said Monday.

The average AAA household customer, who consumes 15,000 liters (4,000 gallons) of water monthly, could see his or her bill increase from $29 to $50, Alberto Lazaro told WQAQ radio.

He said a process is underway to provide the public with better information about the rate hike and give notice that the increase will probably take effect next July.

He explained that the measure is necessary to deal with the AAA's $350 million deficit and because of the inability of the island's cash-strapped government to help.

Lazaro also said that Puerto Rican lawmakers should review the fixed rate applied to customers in public housing, which he blamed for encouraging waste.

The announcement of the possible escalation of water rates has set off a controversy, coming as it does on the heels of a 13 percent hike in electric rates for the next three months.

PNP opposition legislator Antonio Soto asked Monday in a communique to lawmakers of the ruling PPD to call off the water-rate increase.

He called it incomprehensible that with just one month in office, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla wants to boost utility rates.

Garcia Padilla has said he will do everything possible to lower the price of water and described as irresponsible the measures taken over the past few years by the boards of directors of the AAA and state electric company AEE.

The governor says the AAA and AEE lowered rates artificially before the Nov. 6 election to favor the image of then-Gov. Luis Fortuño of PNP. EFE