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The Rising Cost of Water


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Why is the cost of water going up?

WHCRWA - Brochure

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The Rising Cost of Water

  1. 1. c/o Allen Boone Humphries Robinson LLP 3200 Southwest Freeway, Suite 2600 Houston, Texas 77027
  2. 2. BASIC FACTS ABOUT THE WHCRWA In 1999, the Harris GalvestonSubsidence District published itsRegulatory Plan designed to arrest theoccurrence of subsidence throughoutnorthwest Harris County by requiringthat the pumpage of groundwater bereduced. Such an action would alsoallow the aquifers to recharge. To facilitate compliance with theSubsidence District’s mandate, the TexasLegislature created the West HarrisCounty Regional Water Authority toact on behalf of the municipal utilitydistricts within its boundaries. TheAuthority’s primary task was to adopta regional approach to addressingwater supply issues, and to negotiate fora long-term supply of potable surfacewater adequate to meet the phasedconversion schedule: reduce reliance ongroundwater by 30% in 2010; by 70%in 2020; and by 80% in 2030. The alternative to creating an Authoritywas for each of the utility districts toestablish their own groundwater reductionplans, and to independently securetheir own future surface water supplies.Failure to do so would trigger impositionof the Subsidence District’s disincentivefee of $5.00 per thousand gallons ofground-water pumped — an amountthat continues to greatly exceed theAuthority’s fee!
  3. 3. Q. I have sticker shock every timeI open my water bill. Why doesthe cost of water continue to go up?A. There are a number of factors thatimpact the cost of water. The WestHarris County Regional Water Author-ity (WHCRWA) was created in 2001by the Texas Legislature to act on be-half of the water districts within itsboundaries to develop a regional ap-proach to addressing water supply is-sues and to negotiate for a long-termsupply of potable surface water ad-equate to comply with the groundwa-ter reduction mandate of the HarrisGalveston Subsidence District. The long-term surface water contractwith the City of Houston assures acompetitive base price for water andthe Authority’s pro-rata share of trans-mission, operations and maintenancecosts. To meet the initial reduction goalof 30 percent in 2010, the Authorityhad to construct an entirely new waterdelivery infrastructure to bring the sur-face water to our neighborhoods. Thepumpage fees -- often shown on wa-ter bills as the WHCRWA fee – con-tinue to provide the funding necessaryto design and construct the massivewater line projects, storage and pump-ing facilities. During completion of the2010 system, the Authority installed 53miles of water lines and converted 38districts to surface water. In addition to ongoing construc-tion costs, other price increasing fac-tors included spiraling energy andchemical costs.
  4. 4. Q. Why is the WHCRWA fee adifferent amount every month?A. The fee that appears on your water billeach month is charged to the MUDs/WellOwners within the Authority’s boundariesbased on the amount of water pumpedby their wells or the amount of surfacewater they receive from WHCRWA.The Utility Districts in turn charge theirindividual customers forthe water they use. Themore water acustomer uses,the higher thefee will be.Q. How oftendoes the Authority increase the fee?A. There is no set time for fee increases;they are imposed only as necessary. Since2001, the Authority’s groundwater reduc-tion fees have increased from $.10 to$1.75 per 1000 gallons, starting January2012. The charge for surface water since2005 has increased from $.80 to $2.15,starting January 2012. Since the WHCRWA has no tax-ing authority, funding for constructionprojects comes from pumpage fees andwater sales. It is anticipated that anotherhalf- to three-quarters of a billion dol-lars will be needed to pay the Author-ity’s share in projects to meet the 2020conversion deadline, so while there willbe more rate increases in the future, theAuthority is committed to keeping theprice as low as possible for as long aspossible.
  5. 5. Q. Is the WHCRWA getting anyhelp paying for all these construc-tion costs?A. Revenue is also allocated to securewater supplies for 2020 forward. A criti-cal component in this effort is the LuceBayou Project which will transfer wa-ter from the Trinity River to Lake Houstonto help meet increasing demand. TheWHCRWA is partnering with the NorthHarris and Central Harris County Region-al Water Authorities, the City of Houston,and the North Fort Bend Water Authority(NFBWA) in this undertaking. An addi-tional $42 million will come from a lowinterest, Water Infrastructure Fund (WIF)loan from the Texas Water DevelopmentBoard to help fund a major WHCRWA/NFBWA transmission facility.Q. If the drought continues, will itimpact the cost and supply of ourwater?A. While recent rains have providedsome relief, the area is still dramaticallybehind in rainfall. According to the state’smeteorologists, the drought may continuefor some time. One serious consequenceof the lack of rainfall has been that somewater districts have been forced to drill newwells, or re-work existing wells -- a veryexpensive proposition -- because the wa-ter levels in the wells have dropped to thepoint where they are no longer producing.Low lake levels -- the source of the surfacewater supplies -- also impact the amountof water available. It’s up to all of us to dowhat we can to “spend” this precious com-modity wisely by using it more efficiently.
  6. 6. 3 Top Water Savers...1. Find and Fix Leaks -- Probablythe single greatest water waster is a leak-ing toilet! A leak of one gallon every sixminutes (not an unusual amount) totals10 gallons an hour, or 240 gallons aday. This is almost equal to the averageamount of water consumed each day ina single family home!2. Take Shorter Showers -- If everyindividual in this area showered for oneminute less per day, for example, thewater saved would be in excess of 125million gallons in a single year! Installingwater-saving shower heads or flow restric-tors can save another 500 to 800 gallonsper month.3. Water your lawn only when itneeds it. Step on your grass. If it springsback when you lift your foot, it doesn’tneed water. After October, turn OFFyour automatic sprinkler system; yourlawn doesn’t need watering during thedormant phase. Cutting back on unneces-sary watering can save 750-1,500 gallonsper month. The water we conserve today can serve us tomorrow!