Most residents’ water bills to go down next year after City Council approves SAWS rate adjustments

The City Council voted Thursday to approve a San Antonio Water System (SAWS) tariff adjustment that will result in a reduction in water bills for over 80% of residential customers starting in January.

The average residential customer will see an 8.7% reduction in their monthly water bill, equivalent to $5.80, reducing the average bill to $60.88.

83 percent of private customers will experience a reduction in some way.

The remaining 17% are residents who use over 9,000 gallons of water per month and they will see a rate increase for water usage above that amount to discourage that high usage.

The new adjustment also created a separate rate structure for low-income residential customers using SAWS’ Uplift rebate program, and rates for all such customers will remain lower or the same — including 33% to 57% reductions for essential water use.

Some of these tariff reductions are subsidized by an approximately 2% tariff increase for irrigation customers.

Robert Bridge

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San Antonio water system

A slide from the SAWS Rate Adjustment Recommendations presentation.

District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez expressed his satisfaction with the rate change proposal and congratulated individual SAWS members on their work.

“I think that’s brilliant,” he said. “I can find no fault in it.”

SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente said prices for most of its “general” customers — typically businesses — will increase by 7%, while prices for the vast majority of residents will decrease.

“Adjustments to cover service costs will result in a 7% bill increase for most customers in this general class,” Puente said.

Despite the increased corporate tax rates, Cacie Madrid, the vice president of public policy at the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, said her organization supports the tax rate adjustment.

“I’m here on behalf of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce to express our support for the 2023 San Antonio Water System advisory recommendations,” Madrid said.

The tariff adjustment proposal also included tariff increases for treated and chilled water used by some businesses and federal buildings over the next five years.

Treated and chilled water is used to reduce energy costs for some businesses and reduce environmental impact.

Currently, all SAWS customers who do not use recycled or chilled water subsidize the companies’ ability to use them – rates for using recycled water are only 33% of the true cost of the system.

Rate increases through 2027 will result in customers using actual recycled water paying 48% of the system cost by 2023 and 71% of the system cost by 2027.

SAWS-CEO-Robert-Puente.JPG

Joey Palacios

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Texas Public Radio

SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente.

District 9 Councilman John Courage explained why the tariff increase was still a good deal for the companies using recycled water.

“So, despite this projected cost, the people getting recycled water would still be paying less than the cost of providing potable water,” Courage said.

For chilled water used only by downtown and federal buildings and Port San Antonio stores, SAWS proposed five rate increases once a year for the next five years.

A 12% increase in 2023 and 2024, a 10% increase in 2025, and then an 8% increase in 2026 and 2027.

Puente said the rate increases are necessary to maintain and improve the cold water system.

Even after those increases, Puente said customers will still be able to get cheaper cooling for their buildings than they could get elsewhere.

“Even after five years – the 12-12-10-8-8 rate increase – we can still offer it much cheaper than a private sector,” he said.

Closing the agenda item before it was unanimously approved, Puente said he appreciated all the praise for the rate cuts but cautioned against too much praise.

“I’ll tell you that I’ve stood before this podium — 10 of the 13 years I’ve been with SAWS — asking for a price increase,” Puente said. “I don’t want to just accept these awards. I want to warn you all that I may come back.”

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