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10 Things That Impact Your Water Rates

10 Things That Impact Your Water Rates

Plagiarized from the Winter 2019 “Texas On Tap”.

When it comes to our water utility service, most people are simply concerned with three things:  is it on, is it safe, and how much is it costing me?  (Just try to get someone to commit to volunteering time to serve the utility, but that is another story).  Your water utility takes care of the first two items behind the scenes, but the third item is what you see in the mail every month.  You may wonder, rightly so – why does my water cost what it does?

Here are 10 things you may not realize impact your water rate.

  • Regulations: The water and wastewater industry is heavily regulated for the sake of safety.  Your water utility must comply with hundreds of regulations that require a lot of time, equipment and expertise, all of which cost money.  For us, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the driving factor behind these. 
  • Capital Improvements: The concept of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” does NOT apply here.  Proper planning to meet growth demands, complying with capacity requirements and replacing aging infrastructure is a best management practice and saves money in the long run.  Your Board of Directors is heavily involved here. 
  • Electricity: It takes power to run the pumps and operate the treatment processes to provide the quality and pressure required.
  • Water Supply: It is costly to drill wells, obtain regulatory approvals and permits or purchase water from a wholesale provider.  We (SCVWSC) are currently repaying a huge USDA loan for equipment and are the beneficiary of grants to fund the WRT system and Well #6 – which took CONSIDERABLE effort from your Board of Directors.  Which brings us to…
  • Facilities: A basic groundwater system with one well needs a pumping well, pressure and /or storage tank, chemicals, and injection equipment, and a building and site to place everything.  These can run over a million dollars.  Utilities that have multiple well sites and/or pumps and treat surface water have invested many millions to provide safe water to its customers.
  • Treatment: Treatment of water varies depending on the geographical location in the state, as well as the type and location of water being treated.  Regardless, every water utility must treat to the acceptable levels provided in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s regulations.  And, as part of the bureaucracy, TCEQ establishes the regulations then charges for enforcing them.
  • Personnel: Utilities employ general managers, operators, and administrative staff.  Water and Wastewater operators are specialized professionals trained to safeguard the public they serve.  To attract and retain excellent staff, utilities must pay competitive wages.  SCVWSC currently pays CORIX $3000 per month to manage the system operations. 
  • Technology: Technological advancement has been made to provide accurate, real-time data for water utilities in areas such as water conservation, water quality monitoring and smart meter technology for better service to customers.  It has also allowed the opportunity for many systems to accept credit cards, do business through websites (scvwater.org) and have online bill pay. 
  • Future Water Supply:  Texas averages around 350,000 new residents each year.  Identifying options and making the necessary steps toward obtaining and securing water for continual service to current and new customers play a big part in how rates are set. 
  • Communications: your utility is a phone call away.  Whether in the office or after hours, communication has allowed for faster response times to resolve outages and issues in the system.

Though necessary for everyday life, the price you pay for water is likely a small percentage of what you pay for many of the other modern conveniences we have available to us. 

It may interest you to know that TCEQ openly admits that our water is the worst in the state if Texas.

So, the next time you look at your water bill, think of all the things that go into bringing safe, flowing drinking water into your home each and every day.  The price you pay for your water service is an investment in a strong, safe and sustainable water system that is necessary for the future sustainability of our community.