SAN ANGELO, TX – One of the rumors spreading across social media is that an increase in the water bill is coming. City of San Angelo Water Utilities Director Allison Strube said there are no plans to increase rates. She also believes because water was unavailable, many city water customers will see lower bills this month.
As previously reported, on Feb. 18, the wholesale rate of electricity went through the roof causing thousands of people across the state of Texas to see a gigantic spike in their electricity bill.
One man in Dallas, DeAndre Upshaw, claims that he was sent a $7,000 electricity bill. The company charging him is named Griddy, a privately owned company. Griddy sells electricity on an rate indexed to the wholesale price of electricity. The wholesale rate jumped to $900 per kWh during last week's winter storm.
The San Angelo residents on fixed or expired contracts with their electricity providers were not overcharged for electricity.
But what about for the water? Luckily in San Angelo the city owns the water business and that means we only have to deal with the City of San Angelo Water Utilities Department.
"There was a significant amount of time where customers where not using the water" said City of San Angelo's Water and Utilities Director Allison Strube. "If there is a person that believes they are being overcharged they can call our customer service"
City officials have also confirmed that the flushing of the lines during the crisis will not effect customers water bills at all.
Currently in San Angelo the current rate of water is $3.80 per 1,000 gallons for 0-2,000 gallons of water. There is also a water main hookup fee ranging from $30 to $60 depending on the size of the pipe at your water meter. Other fees, like the stormwater fee and garbage pickup are invoiced on a water bill but the proceeds go to different city enterprise funds.
At Monday's press conference, Mayor Brenda Gunter said there will be a "long conversation" about improvements needed for the water distribution system. Strube said in a water infrastructure study conducted a few years ago, over $100 million in infrastructure improvements were identified. There are 620 miles of water pipe underneath San Angelo. Each mile replaced could cost as much as $2 million, Strube estimated.
Gunter narrowed her focus down to the College Hills area where frequent water main breaks have happened. When the City fixes the issues with the water mains in College Hills, Gunter said it will improve the reliability across the entire system.
The City Water Enterprise Fund has enough recurring revenue to finance a large infrastructure project. Several years ago, the Water Advisory Board under banker Mike Boyd's leadership noted that the water department could finance a new water treatment plant that treated toilet-to-tap water costing in the neighborhood of $150 million. At that time, however, Boyd advised against it as it would add too much debt for the water enterprise. See The Politics of Potty Water.
City water recovered over $50 million from its sale of the Ford Ranch this month, although much of that money will pay off the loan to purchase the ranch in 2017. The ranch was purchased to shore up City water rights to the Hickory Reservoir. Gunter and Strube noted that the Hickory saved San Angelo during last week's winter freeze and water crisis.
Bottom line: There are no immediate plans to increase water rates in light of last week's water crisis. However, the mayor promised a conversation about ways to shore up the water system's reliability.