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City Council Approves 10 Percent Water Rate Increase Over Next Two Years

Tim Hernandez (Intern)
Texas Public Radio
Council members listen to Citizens speaking for or against the SAWS rate increases

Water rates under the San Antonio Water System will go up in 2018 and again in 2019 after the the City Council approved the increase in an 8-3 vote Thursday. The dissenting council members were District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse, District 9 Councilman John Courage, and District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry.

Rates will go up 5.8 percent in 2018 and 4.7 percent in 2019. SAWS said the average residential water bill would go up to $69 per month in 2019. The average home water bill now is at about $62.  


The higher rates will generate about $63.5 million in revenue from the increases. The utility said roughly 50 percent of that will be used on infrastructure improvements in its water delivery and sewer systems. SAWS is under a consent decree from the Environmental Protection Agency to fix portions of its aging sewer system.


San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the increases are necessary to secure the city’s water future.


“This is a water rate increase that’s judicious, it’s well thought out, and it’s deserving of our support because we are obligated ... not (just) our ourselves but to future generations,” he said.


Another rate increase, as much as 12 percent, could come in 2020. The last rate increase came in 2016 when the Council approved a hike of about 7 percent. There were rate increases in 2014 and 2015, as well.


Brockhouse has been the most vocal opponent against the increases. During Thursday’s meeting, Brockhouse made a motion to eliminate the 2019 increase and only vote on the 2018 adjustment, which he said he would also vote against. The motion failed.


“We have to stop rubber stamping rate increases whether its CPS Energy, or SAWS or any fee for that matter,” Brockhouse said. “Everytime we come and take a dollar from a citizen we have to make sure everything we’re doing as a government is using every dollar we have wisely.”


Perry introduced an amendment to strip from the adjustment the revenue the city would obtain from the increase. That amendment also failed.


An affordability assistance program is available for residents who meet poverty guidelines. SAWS is adding $2 million to the assistance program in 2018, taking it to $5.7 million. Families who are 50 percent below the poverty can receive a $24 discount off their bill. Families at 125 percent of the poverty line can get $8 removed from their bill.


The new rates take effect on Jan. 1.


Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@tpr.org or on Twitter @joeycule