Increase to boost reliability, water supply

Increase to boost reliability, water supply
Posted on 01/12/2023
EPWater's budget funding priorities include flood control.

After securing the Public Service Board’s approval Jan. 11, El Paso Water will draw on a record water and wastewater capital improvement budget to boost system reliability and future water supply.

The combined $954 million for the Fiscal Year 2023-2024 Water/Wastewater and Stormwater budgets will result in an increase of $9.03 per month on the typical residential beginning March 1, the start of the fiscal year.

“We have some very specific needs to make progress on new water supply projects and to expand our Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant,” said EPWater President and CEO John Balliew. “East Side growth has pushed the plant to a threshold that requires an urgent capacity increase so we can serve the growing number of homes and businesses in the area.” 

How funds will be used

The largest single investment focuses on the 31-year-old Bustamante Plant, which treats 39 million gallons a day but must be expanded to 51 million gallons a day. The estimated costs over five years will total $730 million.   

Balliew noted EPWater’s funding priorities mirror those of customers who were surveyed recently about their preferences.

  • Reliability - $428 million: Water and wastewater pipes, tanks, plants and pump stations are overdue for replacement and rehabilitation.
  • Water supply - $53 million: Well rehab and new well construction are included, as well as the Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project in northeast El Paso.
  • Flood control - $70 million: Projects focus on new ponds and improvements to existing ponds and drainage pipes.

EPWater will proceed with three new water supply projects in 2023: construction for the expansion of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant, construction of the first phase of the Aquifer Storage and Recharge project, and preparation for construction of the Advanced Water Purification Facility.

Affordability initiatives

Balliew urged customers to take steps to expand their water conservation efforts to offset the impact of rate and fee increases.      

“Water conservation saves money,” Balliew said.

EPWater’s following affordability measures were also given the green light:

  • The Water Supply Replacement Charge is waived for customers using less than 4 CCFs monthly. An average of 48,000 low-water users currently takes advantage of the waiver each month and may be eligible for an updated waiver of $14.04 a month.
  • An increased water volume from 4 CCFs (2,990 gallons) to 5 CCFs (3,740 gallons) included in the monthly minimum charge: An additional estimated 18,000 customers may save $6 a month.

Even with the increase, the city’s water bills will remain among the lowest in Texas and the region, Balliew told the board.

The board voted to delete the proposed affordability initiative Sustainable Infrastructure Surcharge from the agenda. The SIS would have shifted the burden of growth infrastructure to the new customers that require new storage tanks, pump stations and pipelines. For the typical residential customer who requires a ¾-inch meter, the proposed SIS would total an additional $59 on their monthly water bill if approved.

With the upcoming addition of the new Campo del Sol housing development, probably over a half of Northeast El Paso would be affected by the SIS, said Northeast city Rep. Joe Molinar told the PSB.

“For a lot of constituents and families, that is a lot of money,” Molinar said.

The PSB, including Dr. Kristina Mena and El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser, asked EPWater staff to review the utility’s rate structure and get community feedback for a possible future infrastructure fee.

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