Flood control project near I10 | Photo courtesy EPWater
El Paso Water staff presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2019-’20 water, wastewater and stormwater budgets to the Public Service Board (PSB) on Monday evening.
According to EPW officials, the PSB will now consider the combined $436.1 million budget, which proposes no increase for stormwater fees.
The officials add that, “this is a downward adjustment from last year’s projection of 6 percent.” However, the budget proposes a 4 percent increase to water rates and an 8 percent increase to wastewater rates that will result in an average increase of $3 per month for the typical homeowner.
Nearly half of next year’s proposed capital improvement budget has been allocated to address aging infrastructure.
Other priorities include new water infrastructure needed to support city growth and progress on new water supply projects to meet future demand. The proposed stormwater budget enables momentum on major flood control projects already underway while holding off on major new projects.
“Along with many other utilities across the country, rehabilitating our older facilities is a priority,” said EPWater President and CEO John Balliew. “Major upgrades at three of our wastewater facilities will improve performance, reliability, efficiency and odor control.”
Balliew added that leak detection along with age and vulnerability assessments have pointed to necessary proactive replacements of major water and wastewater pipelines. “It’s important to manage and replace pipelines that show signs of aging or deterioration to prevent increases in water main breaks,” he said.
The $41.4 million stormwater budget focuses on projects already underway that were funded in the 2018-’19 fiscal year, as well as maintaining the existing stormwater system.
“El Paso Water’s efforts to install new water tanks and extend service lines are instrumental for our thriving city,” said Mayor Dee Margo.
Affordability Even with this year’s rate increases, El Paso’s monthly water charges are the second lowest of other large Texas cities. Only Laredo’s water rates are lower, while water rates are higher in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.
Conservation is a tool for customers looking to lower their water bills. The rate structure is designed to provide relief for low water users while charging more for high water users.
Customers using less than 4 ccfs* (2,992 gallons) of water in any given month will receive a waiver of the Water Supply Replacement Charge. Last year, this charge of $9.83 was waived on an average of 33,000 monthly customer bills.
EPWater has partnered with Project Amistad, a local nonprofit, on a customer assistance program to help elderly, lowincome customers who are at risk of disconnection. The program will provide bill payment assistance, money management counseling and help with home conservation.
If approved, the budgets, rates and fees will go into effect at the start of the fiscal year, which begins March 1, 2019.