Approved budget targets rehab, sustainability

Approved budget targets rehab, sustainability
Posted on 01/08/2020
The PSB approves the FY 2020-21 budget.

The Public Service Board (PSB) approved the El Paso Water Budget for fiscal year 2020-21. There is no increase to stormwater fees, but the new budget includes a 5% increase to water and wastewater rates. Beginning March 1, the average residential customer will see an increase of about $2.81 on their monthly bill.

“The Public Service Board is constantly searching for a balance between our responsibility to provide our customers with a quality product at a reasonable price on the one hand, and necessary water infrastructure improvements and the development of future water supplies on the other hand,” said PSB Chairman Chris Antcliff. “Today, the PSB adopted a budget that minimizes the impact on our customers as much as possible while keeping our community on a path of long-term water resiliency.”

Also effective March 1, the City of El Paso is increasing the yearly franchise fee charged to El Paso Water to $6.55 million. Customers will see a slight increase on the franchise fee line item on their bill, from $0.77 to $1.24 for the typical residential customer.

Utility priorities

The Bustamante Wastewater Plant will undergo rehabilitation efforts that include a new headworks building, which is the first stop in the wastewater treatment process.Four key priorities are driving the increase to EPWater’s budget and rates: securing our future water supplies, system expansion for city growth, improvements in customer services and rehabilitation of aging infrastructure. Investments in these areas will support long-term sustainability and reliability for EPWater customers.

In 2020-21, EPWater will spend about $134 million on rehabilitation projects and another $71 million on growth requirements with major improvements to the wastewater system. Three of El Paso’s wastewater treatment facilities will undergo major upgrades to improve efficiency, performance and odor control. The Bustamante Wastewater Plant will undergo rehabilitation efforts that include a new headworks building, which is the first stop in the wastewater treatment process.

Work will begin on multi-year expansions of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant and the Hickerson Wastewater Plant.

An estimated $27 million will be allocated to future water supply projects to include completing design of the Advanced Water Purification Facility. The facility will transform treated wastewater into safe, reliable and drought-proof drinking water for El Paso.

Affordability programs

When it comes to customers, EPWater is sensitive to economic pressures and has programs in place for customers who use very little water. Last year, about 38,000 customers monthly received a waiver of the $11.04 Water Supply Replacement Charge by using less than 4 CCFs (about 3000 gallons).

EPWater will also continue its partnership with Amistad to help low-income senior customers with bill payment assistance, conservation, and money management counseling.

“We’re trying to take care of our customers the best we can while making sure we have water for the future,” said Balliew.

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