12 thoughts on “City Council Weighs in on Proposed Water Rate Increases

  1. How is SAWS determining the rate increase is 5.8%? The Texas State official filing and mailer from SAWS says a 10,000 gallon, in-the-city customer will see 7.4% increase in water and 3.6% for sewer in 2017.

    The meter fee (Service Availability Charge) is going up 9.7%. The Water Volume through at least 10,473 gallons is also going up 9.7% in 2018.

    It sounds an awful lot like the WATER rates are going up about 10% this year, not 5.8%, and sewer not as large as increase.

    The Water Supply fee (which is not readily posted under residential rates but must be separately accessed) is only going up 4% this year, and another 5% next year.

    I used the SAWS rate calculator and omitted the non-SAWS fees; the SAWS part of my bill would increase 6.7%, which is a nifty trick from “only” 5.8%. If I include the non-SAWS fees (which SAWS doesn’t show increasing) that increase drops to 5.9%.

    So where does SAWS’ claimed 5.8% come from?

    • Thank you Joe, for drilling deeper.

      Thank you, Rocio, for your article. Do Joe’s points above hold water? If so, are you going to follow up with us here?

      • I tried to review the SAWS meeting minutes, but since SAWS works on a 2-month backlog, the earliest the September minutes for the budget will be available will be November (FYI: the October meeting approved the August minutes, so official info lags by 60 days despite a September meeting occurring in-between). So no official info from SAWS.

        So I went to the City Council B-session agenda. Nope, no minutes. But there is a video you can access from the CoSA web page.

        If you want tedium, you can watch the video. The rate increases are discussed at about the 26 minute mark, slide 3 and again at the 1:08 mark, slide 33. They are, in my opinion, nonsensical. They’re percentages, but in a vacuum. It’s a 5.8% increase comprised of 0.9% water supply + 3.2% water delivery + 1.7% waste water; ergo: 5.8%, or the sum of all the increases.

        But there is never any detail provided on what the changes actually are. There is a before/after comparison of notional/average total bills at the very end, but even that is not 5.8% it’s only 5.6%

        Of note, on slide 33, the observation is made that the 2020 water supply rate increase of 9.3% is “pre-approved” to pay for Vista Ridge. That might explain, in part, why SAWS is only implementing a 4% “water supply fee” in 2018 and again in 2019 because they’re also guaranteed a big jump in 2020.

        Since SAWS broke it into 3 categories in their presentation to the Council, I will too. From SAWS calculator, my bill (remember, these are SAWS numbers, not mine):

        Current 2018 % 2019 %
        Supply 4.10 4.28 4.4% 4.47 4.4%
        Delivery 18.30 20.07 9.7% 20.15 0.0%
        Waste 14.28 14.79 3.6% 15.97 8.0%

        Using SAWS’ nonsensical method of summing the disparate increases in each separate area, my bill is going up 17.7%! Oh no!

        Of course, this is nonsense. It’s really going up only 6% (which is still more than 5.8%!) because I do what reasonable people do, I take my future total bill ($50.75) and divide it by my current total bill ($47.88).

        But SAWS further compounds its rate-increase nonsense by comparing bills to other cities without context to what is in the bills. IIRC, Dallas for example includes trash pick-up in the water bill, in San Antonio that’s in your CPS bill. In Dallas, you pay less and get more, but you may not also have a stormwater fee since that may be included in your city taxes or something. It is, to repeat a point, nonsense to compare “bills” from different cities unless every city includes exactly the same services and fees in every bill.

        Call or e-mail your Council-member and the Mayor, tell them you’d like SAWS to provide valid data with which to evaluate rate increases and go from there. What SAWS has provided so far is either still hidden in SAWS meeting minutes, or it makes no sense.

    • You’re right. Some months I only use 748 gallons (or 1 on the meter, meaning 100 cubic feet). I suppose I could cut back to 0 gallons and that might save me $3 per month, because that’s all I pay for actual water consumption on a $40.20 bill for 1,496 gallons – at current rates. That already includes my $2.14 Lifeline discount for low use, btw.

      Read your bill and try to figure out how very little money you save by using less water (assuming you’re a good, low-use, water conserving customer – high use customer can, obviously, reduce their bills). For low-use customers, it’s the high fixed fees that kill you. SAWS claims that most of their customers are comparatively low use, less than 7,481 gpm, IIRC.

      Of my $40.20 SAWS bill, $36.98 is in minimum fees. And yes, SAWS – and CoSA – are raising those fees – you can’t use any less than the minimum – so unless you use zero gallons your bill is going up in 2018 and 2019. You cannot conserve your way out of these increases. SAWS rate structure does not encourage conservation until you are in the extreme water use category.

      Meter Charge (minimum bill, with discount!) $13.09 up to $14.35 or 10%; Sewer (also minimum) $14.28 up to $14.79, or 4%. CoSA stormwater $9.61 to $10.02, 4%.

      But just to be sure, I checked; if I am able to cut my use all the way to 0 gallons in 2018, I’ll actually save $0.80 (or a whopping 2%, woohoo!) and my bill will only be $39.80 instead of $40.20. All of it in fees, none of it for water.

  2. For elderly citizens on fix incomes any inctease to to much. I hope the City council takes a hard look at the request. They can not except Saws numbers with proper oversite.

  3. Let’ start today with water conservation (rain harvesting), bucket showers (I am serious), rinse dishes with 3 gallons of water (all day), capture cold water in shower in bucket and use it for plant watering or cleaning household, place mulch in plants to retain moisture. Close faucet sink when cleaning teeth (use a small cup). Believe me, all this tips (along with keeping lights turn on at a minimum (use natural day light), help budget in a BIG WAY, IF WE DO THIS EVERYDAY. Let’s truly make San Antonio a GREEN and environmentally conscientious city. Each one of us can accomplish that everyday.

    • I draw the line, with a “heck no!”, on bucket showers, but you got my mind-gears going. Thank you, from one SA resident to “SA Citizen” 🙂

  4. Councilmen Greg Brockhouse (D6) and Clayton Perry (D10) you two are the winners. YOU are our only voice! Thank you for standing up for the citizens of this wonderful city.
    Roberto Treviño (D1) and Rey Saldana (D4) you two LOVE to spend tax payers hard earned money (or our social security checks)!

  5. It’s official. The actual rate “adjustments” are, really, going up 4.5%, 9.7% and 3.6% – despite what you may think you’ve been told so far. Pay no attention to those smaller numbers on the slides that SAWS used of 0.9%, 3.2% and 1.7%

    Right there in tomorrow’s council agenda, item 29, page 223. You can read it here. http://saws.org/who_we_are/board/agenda/documents/2017-11-07.AGN.pdf

    For those of you keeping score at home, or who have a water meter, this 9.7% increase brings that total meter fee increase up to 69% more since the 2015 restructuring for just the meter. “Highest fees in Texas! But our low rates make up for it…” Unless you don’t use much water. Then you’re simply paying for everyone else’s water while providing SAWS steady, predictable revenue, regardless of how much or little you use.

    But don’t take my word for it, ask your Council member to ask SAWS. The Council votes on the Rate Increase on Thursday.

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