District K Residents,
Many of you may not be aware of the vote on the water and wastewater rate increase that will take place at next week’s city council meeting. The actual item was on this week’s agenda however my colleagues and I unanimously tagged it for an additional week to provide residents with time to review their usage, and understand the changes.
Every five years, the city studies our utility rates and makes a decision about whether or not to update or restructure our billing system. In 2015, during our last study, the city opted not to implement updates or changes to our water rates. This isn’t to say water rates haven’t increased — city ordinance requires the annual adjustment of water and sewer rates each year on the first of April. These adjustments are based on changes in the Annual U.S. Census Houston Population Index and the U.S. Consumer Price Index. Historically, the rate changes have ranged from .03% to 4.40% annually. The proposed rates being considered now do not include the annual automatic adjustment.
The recent study took a look at the city’s infrastructure obligations and future needs. Resilience investment is necessary to ensure Houston is prepared to meet the needs of a growing population and to face events like Winter Storm Uri. Maintenance costs for our extensive water and wastewater system have also increased since our last rate restructure. Houston Public Works (HPW) is responsible for three water plants and 7,000 miles of water lines, treating 146 billion gallons of water a day. Houston’s wastewater system is one of the largest and most most complex in the nation. HPW maintains 39 wastewater plants, 381 lift stations, 6,200 miles of gravity and force mains.
Additionally, a federal judge approved an agreement (Consent Decree) between the City of Houston and the Environmental Protection Agency in March that will require the city to spend an estimated $2 billion on improvements to our sanitary sewer system within the next 15 years. The agreement requires the city to replace 5% of our lift stations and 2.5% of our gravity-driven pipes annually as well as make other improvements to reduce the risk of sewer overflows.
Approximately 59% of residents are using 3000-4000 gallons of water each month. These residents will see a $5 or less increase on their July bill (effective date may change). Over the next five years, the water rate will continue to increase, as outlined in the chart on the one page summary link. Please note, the chart does not include the solid waste cart fee, drainage fee, and TCEQ connection fee, which also appear on water bills.
HPW has provided the following two documents with further details on the rate changes. I strongly encourage you to pull out your actual bill and review this information as it pertains to your household and actual usage.
During the council meeting this week, Mayor Turner also asked HPW and the legal staff to asses the effective date. Originally the effective date was July 1, 2021. I know there is never a good time to raise rates however as you see, we have little options in order to meet the demands of the consent decree and update our failing infrastructure. As soon as the effective date is determined I will send out another email notice.
As always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us.