Rising costs to treat and deliver water to Fort Worth residents will likely mean higher water and sewer bills beginning in January.
Average water users will see a 9.98 percent hike in the water and sewer portion of their bills — about a $5.42 increase each month. The changes will generate $23.3 million more for the Water Department.
The proposed increases were presented to the City Council on Tuesday. If approved in September when the council votes on its budget, the new rates will take effect Jan. 1.
Fort Worth water rates are set by tiers and based on usage, meaning that the people who use more water also pay more. Under the proposal, the rates themselves within each tier are not changing, but the usage amount for each tier is. The starting point for the first three tiers is 200 cubic feet of water lower.
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For example, the lowest rate tier now covers customers who use 8 or less CCF, or 100 cubic feet of water. That tier will drop to 6 or less CCF. The next tier moves to customers who use more than 8 but less than 20 CCF. Under the proposed changes, that will shift to more than 6 and less than 18 CCF. The third tier will change to more than 18 but less than 30 CCF.
Conservative users will see an average increase of about $2.58, or a 7.78 percent rise, and large users will see a jump of $16.24, or 7.82 percent.
John Carman, the city’s water director, said the hike is needed to meet infrastructure needs for the next five years as well as cover higher raw-water costs, higher costs to treat water and process biosolids under newer Environmental Protection Agency rules, and changes in the city’s financial policies.
Odor control chemicals will cost the city $3.8 million more and water $8 million more, he said.
About 50 percent of the city’s 3,500 miles of water pipes are less than 25 years old, Carman said. “We have a lot of them that are over 100 years old and need replacing,” he said.
Council members expressed concern that it appears the city will ask residents to pay more for water at the same time it’s asking them to conserve.
“That’s the part I’m having a hard time swallowing,” Councilman Cary Moon said. “The first solution was just, ‘Let’s go increase rates.’ What is the city doing to reduce its fixed costs? There was no presentation about reducing costs.”
Mayor Betsy Price said the city needs to show residents that it is working just as hard to contain costs as it is to conserve water. Had those conservation efforts not been used, the hikes would be much greater, she said.
“We’re not going to snap our fingers and cut the costs of delivering and treating water in a growing city,” Price said. “We have to assure our citizens that we are doing everything we can to keep the cost of water and treatment down, that we’re not placing the burden more on any one group than any other.”
Through conservation efforts, water consumption is down about 34 percent since 2000.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727