Rate increases to pay for growth, rehab

Rate increases to pay for growth, rehab
Posted on 12/03/2020
Jonathan Rogers Water Treatment Plan

A 2% increase in both water and wastewater rates will help rehabilitate El Paso Water’s aging infrastructure and expand systems for city growth. President and CEO John Balliew and staff members presented the utility’s proposed Fiscal Year 2021-22 Water/Wastewater and Stormwater budgets to the Public Service Board on Nov. 30.

Staff also proposed no increase to stormwater fees for the third consecutive year. However, the PSB asked to see options for a minimal increase to the stormwater fee to allow for the completion of additional flood control projects. The fee options will be presented to the PSB at the board’s Dec. 9 meeting.

If approved, the combined $506 million budgets – as currently proposed – will result in an increase of $1.11 per month on the average residential bill, Balliew said.

Breaking down the budget

Even with the $1.11 monthly water bill increase, EPWater has the second lowest water rates of large Texas cities, including Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Only Laredo’s water rates are lower.

EPWater’s rate structure will continue to provide relief for low water users while charging more for high-water users. Customers using less than 4 ccfs* (2,990 gallons) of water in any given month will receive a waiver of the $11.82 Water Supply Replacement Charge.

The slight increase to water and wastewater rates is necessary to secure El Paso’s future water supply, improve system reliability through rehabilitation of aging infrastructure, and expand systems to accommodate growth, Balliew said. Investing in these priorities will support long-term sustainability for customers.

“We have built an innovative portfolio of water resources, and this is just one way we are ensuring EPWater customers have a reliable source of water,” Balliew said. “It is especially needed when we do not have a plentiful river water season.”

Funding priorities

Aquifer storage and recoveryEPWater will launch the first phase of a major capital project that will recharge the Hueco Bolson aquifer. The first phase of the project involves the construction of infiltration infrastructure along a 1.3-mile stretch of arroyo in Northeast El Paso, with a dual benefit of providing urban greenspace and trails along the arroyo.

Upon completion of multiple phases of the project, Rio Grande water will be used during plentiful seasons to help stabilize the aquifer and improve drought resilience.

Additional capital improvement projects for the new fiscal year include:

  • drilling new wells
  • upgrades and/or expansion of the Roberto Bustamante, Fred Hervey and John T. Hickerson wastewater treatment plants
  • improvements to the Jonathan Rogers and Canal river water treatment plants, and technology and facility upgrades to increase efficiency of operations.

Approval of the FY2021-22 budget, including rates and fees, will be voted on during the PSB’s meeting on Jan. 13. If approved, the budget, rates and fees will go into effect at the start of the fiscal year, which begins March 1.

For more information on the proposed budget, click here. To watch the presentation, click here.

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