District K Residents,
Last week, Houston City Council voted to increase water and wastewater rates in a 12-4 vote. The new rates will go into effect on September 1, 2021 instead of the original July 1, 2021 proposed date. The increase will help to improve infrastructure and meet federally required guidelines to address sanitary sewer overflows.
The 2020 Water and Wastewater Cost of Service Rate Study shows 44% of District K residents use less that 3K gallons of water while 15% use 4K gallons; 21% use 5K to 6K; 17% use 7K to 12K gallons and 3% of District K residents use more than 12K gallons of water per month.
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 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 Houstonians are using 3000-4000 gallons of water each month. These residents will see a $5 or less increase on their September bill. 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.
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. I am willing to work with HPW to schedule a town hall meeting for residents to ask any outstanding questions you may have. I will also compile a list of the utility projects that are currently in the works in our district for your review. My office will also be working with HPW to share the “how to” pieces they have prepared to create online accounts to review your household water usage. Accounts with a remote read meter can receive updates every two hours and set up alerts. Not all customers have the remote read meters yet, however, these additional funds will allow HPW to update the over 20 year old system to ensure all water customers will eventually be able to monitor their usage online.
As always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us.