More than 3 million New Jersey residents would have to pay higher water bills if rate hikes proposed by two state water companies are approved.

New Jersey Amercain Water is seeking a 15 percent rate hikes to pay for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance. Company spokesman Richard Barnes says the increase is needed so they can continue to provide high quality, reliable water service.

"We have over 8,600 miles of sewer line in the ground and most of the infrastructure is near the end of its life, so its very important that we upgrade our system for our residents. Since our last rate request increase in 2010, we have spent over $300 million on infrastructure improvements."

Barnes says the average household would see a slight increase in their monthly water bill.

"For the ratepayer who uses 6,500 gallons of water per month, their rates would rise approximately $7.67."

United Water has requested an even bigger rate increase, about 25 percent or $10 more a month for the average customer.

"We made about $67 million in infrastructure improvements over the last two years and this increase is needed so that we can continue to provide clean water for businesses and customers who need it" said company spokesman Rich Henning.

The state Board of Public Utilities must approve all requests for a rate increase. Public comment sessions will be held first, then an administrative law judge will make the final decision.

On Dec. 14th, two public meetings will be held. The first at 2 p.m. at the Howell Township municipal offices and the second at 7 p.m. at Westfield Memorial Library.