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City Staff Agree With SAWS Rate Increases

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Chief Financial Officer Ben Gorzell presents the city's findings and recommendation to city council.

San Antonio has moved a step closer to adopting a steep increase in water rates. City staff members are asking the council to approve a combined 15 percent rate increase over the next two years.


City Chief Financial Officer Ben Gorzell told council members the incremental rate increases are needed toreplace aging wastewater lines and guarantee a new water supply. That includes building the 142-mile Vista Ridge pipeline that would deliver water from Burleson County about 30 miles from College Station.


“The assumptions around those, we believe them to be reasonable so, we’re recommending the rate increase of 7.5 percent for 2016 and rate plan in place for 2017 to 2020,” Gorzell said Wednesday.


Under the rate plan the average San Antonio Water System  customer who use 6,000 gallons a month would see his or her monthly water bills go up about $8 next year. The bills would also increase each year between 2017 and 2020.


The new rate structure is divided into eight tiers instead of the current four. SAWS CEO Robert Puente says some ratepayers would actually pay less if they lower their water usage to 3,000 gallons, about half of what the average customer now uses.


“If you can conserve water and if you’re of low income--and therefore use little water--your rates will go down,” Puente said.


City staff said SAWS may not need additional rate increases after 2017, which is comforting to Mayor Ivy Taylor.


“That was very encouraging to know that there is a possibility SAWS wouldn’t have to get the full rate support that they’re projecting,” she said.


City Council members will vote on the proposed rates on Nov. 19 after seeing a commissioned water report on Nov. 12.  That report has drawn controversy for reportedly containing comments that question the wisdom of building the Vista Ridge pipeline. 

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules