EL PASO, TX – El Paso Water staff presented proposed FY 2023-24 water/wastewater and stormwater budgets to the Board of Public Utilities. If approved next Jan. 11, customers will see an increase of $9.03 per month on the typical residential bill for water, wastewater and stormwater charges, which is an increase of approximately 13% over last year’s bill.
“Every year we survey our customers and ask them what their budget priorities are,” Balliew said. “Overwhelmingly, they said reliability, water supply and flood control.”
A combination of inflation, as well as recruitment and retention challenges, also contributed to the increase, Balliew said. The company’s funding priorities focus on Reliability, where $428 million will be allocated for water and wastewater pipelines, reservoirs, plants and pump stations that need to be replaced and rehabilitated.
Likewise, an amount of US$53 million is contemplated for Supply, which includes the rehabilitation of wells and the construction of new ones, as well as the aquifer storage and recovery project in northeast El Paso.
In the area of Flood Control, $70 million will be allocated to projects for the construction of new ponds and the improvement of existing ponds and drainage pipelines.
The largest proposed investment will go to the 31-year-old Roberto R. Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant, which requires a crucial increase in capacity due to burgeoning growth on the city’s east side. The plant treats 39 million gallons per day, but needs to be expanded to 51 million gallons per day. Estimated costs over five years total $730 million.
To ease the impact of rate and fee increases, Balliew and utility staff are also urging customers to expand their water conservation efforts.
EPWater also proposed affordability measures for the PSB to consider, such as waiving the water supply replenishment fee for customers using less than 4 CCF per month. An average of 48 thousand low water users currently benefit from the exemption each month and may be eligible for an upgrade of $14.04 per month.
Also proposed was an increase in water volume from 4 CCF (2 thousand 990 gallons) to 5 CCF (3 thousand 740 gallons) included in the monthly minimum charge: An estimated 18 thousand additional customers could save $6 per month.
Another recommendation was to pass on the costs of infrastructure in outlying areas to those who benefit from it: The Sustainable Infrastructure Surcharge is a fixed monthly fee determined by meter size that will apply only to households and businesses with new meters.
Some concerns were also raised about the impact of the new surcharge. For the typical residential customer who needs a ¾-inch meter, the proposed SIS would mean up to $59 added to their monthly water bill if approved.
The board will vote on the FY 2023-24 budget, including rates and fees, at its Jan. 11 meeting. If approved, the budget, rates and fees will take effect at the start of the fiscal year, which begins March 1.