EPWU proposes 11% fee increase; $4.52 average hike in water bills if approved

In the second of two budget workshops before the Public Service Board (PSB), El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) today proposed a water and wastewater budget of $463.2 million for fiscal year 2016-2017 and recommended an 11 percent increase to water and wastewater rates for residential and commercial customers.

If the 11% increase is approved, average residential bills will increase by about $4.52 monthly from $41.56 to $46.08.  The rate structure will remain the same to reward conservation; customers save money when saving water.

And even as costs for water sources and treatment processes continue to rise, El Paso remains one of the most affordable cities for water rates when compared with other Texas cities and border cities, according to recent surveys.

The public is invited to attend our next two monthly PSB meetings (December 16 and January 13 at 8 a.m., EPWU Main Office). The PSB will deliberate and approve final budgets and fee changes on January 13. T

he new budget and fees would go into effect at the beginning of the new fiscal year, which begins March 1, 2016.

Of the proposed budget, 63% percent (or $289.9 million) would go to capital improvement projects that would fund future water supply projects, address aging infrastructure needs and support system expansion to keep pace with city growth.

“Our customers expect and deserve reliable water and wastewater service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” says EPWU President and CEO John Balliew. “These rate increases are needed to help us cover the rising costs associated with delivering a sustainable water supply today and for years to come.”

Pervasive drought-cycles and a limited water supply from the Rio Grande require EPWU to plan and fund long-term water planning projects. Two such projects receiving attention in the proposed budget are:

1) Advanced Water Purification, which will be a first of its kind, multi-step water reuse project that would convert used water to drinking water, providing a drought-proof water supply solution

2) Acquisition of new water resources in Hudspeth County for future water importation.

EPWU outlined the need to pursue needed rehabilitation efforts to replace aging infrastructure and ensure a functioning water distribution system.  Proposed improvements include odor reduction and reliability improvements to the Haskell Wastewater Plant, a final phase of emergency backup power and replacement of 40-50 year-old pipelines and wells.

El Paso continues to grow at a pace of about 4000 new houses added annually; all require water, wastewater piping, meters, tanks and fire hydrants. Expansion in El Paso’s Northeast and Montana East areas along with an expansion of the Jonathan Rogers Water Treatment Plant are among those projects highlighted to meet the needs of city growth.

Author: El Paso Water Utilties