Monday evening, El Paso Water staff presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2021-22 Water/Wastewater and Stormwater budgets to the Public Service Board.
According to El Paso Water officials, the proposal included no increase to stormwater fees and a 2% increase in water/wastewater fees. They add that both are below financial plan projections, which called for a 3% increase to the stormwater fee and a 5% increase in water/wastewater rates.
If approved, the combined $506 million budgets will result in an increase of $1.11 per month for the average residential bill.
“This is the third consecutive year that staff proposed no increase in stormwater fees, opting to focus on projects already funded in 2020-21,” utility officials shared.
“Compared to Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio, EPWater’s monthly water and wastewater charges are the second lowest of large Texas cities; only Laredo’s water rates are lower,” EPW officials added. “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.”
Officials say that key funding priorities driving the slight increase to water and wastewater rates included securing El Paso’s future water supply, improving system reliability through rehabilitation of aging infrastructure, and expanding systems for city growth.
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,” said EPWater President and CEO John Balliew. “It is especially needed when we do not have a plentiful river water season.”
EPWater will launch the first phase of a major capital project that will recharge the Hueco Bolson aquifer to secure this important water supply.
The first phase of the project involves excavation and 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.
Utility officials say that, upon completion of the multi-year project, they will take treated Rio Grande water during plentiful seasons and use it to help stabilize the aquifer and improve drought resilience.
Additional capital improvement projects for the new fiscal year include: the drilling of new wells; rehabilitating several water tanks; 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.
Also during Monday’s meeting, the PSB requested to see options for a minimal increase to the stormwater fee to allow for the completion of additional flood control projects.
These fee options will be presented to the PSB for consideration at the December 9 meeting, and approval of the FY 2021-22 budget including rates and fees will be voted on during the January 13, 2021 meeting.
If approved, the budget, rates and fees will go into effect at the start of the fiscal year, which begins March 1, 2021.