No water and wastewater rate increases for 2022
Published on August 25, 2021
Though the proposed 2022 water and wastewater operating budget is increasing by $12.1 million or 2.5%, customers will not see a rate increase for a second consecutive year. This is the third time in four years that water and wastewater rates are not changing.
“Investing in new technology to change business processes is resulting in operating cost savings, as well as increased revenue. Also, growth in our customer base is helping avoid a rate increase again this year,” said Water Director Chris Harder.
The utility’s operating costs are also decreasing in some significant categories such as electricity and chemicals. This provides the opportunity to increase funding toward renewal and replacement of aging water and wastewater pipes.
The proposed budget increases cash-funded capital improvements by $12 million to $77.9 million in fiscal year 2022. The city’s financing strategy is to fund replacement projects with cash rather than selling bonds, eliminating long-term debt payments.
The top priorities for this additional funding are replacing old cast iron water mains, eliminating public-side lead service lines, reducing water loss and increasing wastewater collection pipelines to reduce sanitary sewer overflows during rain events.
About 82% of the water main breaks and leaks each year are in the cast iron pipe. Cast iron comprises about 23% of the pipe material in the distribution system.
The city started inventorying its service line materials in 2016 and is 85% complete. Replacing the lead service lines started in 2017 and should be finished by the end of next year. When lead service lines are in a cluster, the entire water line is replaced, having the added value of replacing cast iron pipe at the same time because the two were installed together, in most cases.
The city committed to the wastewater collection system improvements for reducing overflows through a 10-year voluntary agreement with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality executed in 2017.
The utility’s proposed five-year capital budget is $1.1 billion. The city and utility use multiple financing strategies to finance capital improvements in order to secure the lowest interest rates.
While rates are not changing, a customer’s bill could still increase because of how the customer uses water. Outside watering is the biggest driver of residential customer water bills.
Get articles like this in your inbox. Subscribe to City News.