Travis County commissioners voted unanimously to delay a rate increase for bulk water until March 1 after residents raised concerns about the price change.

In August, commissioners approved raising the price of bulk water from $0.25 per 100 gallons for residential use to $12.28 per 100 gallons in an effort to recover the full cost of providing the service.

But after hearing from residents who live in subdivisions without water lines, such as Los Lomitas in Southeast Travis County, commissioners initially decided to delay the price increase until Jan. 1.

Rose Vargas said at an Aug. 27 Commissioners Court meeting that her family uses around 2,000 gallons of bulk water a week to care for cattle and other animals on their land.

“I’m willing to negotiate the price, and I know it shouldn’t be free, but from $5 to $250 [a week] seems insurmountable,” Vargas said.

At a Dec. 10 meeting, county staff recommended that commissioners further delay the price increase until March and offer a discounted rate to eligible customers.

Cynthia McDonald, a Travis County executive, said at the Dec. 17 meeting that the discount would be 50%.

Eligibility requirements would be similar to existing programs and likely take into consideration county residency, income and disability status, among other factors, according to a brief prepared by county staff.

The base criteria for eligibility would be income at or below 150% of the federal poverty level, County Executive Sherri Fleming told commissioners.

This would include individuals earning $18,735 or families of four earning $38,625 a year, according to 2019 poverty guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition to delaying the price increase, commissioners also slightly changed the new price to $12 per 100 gallons and directed staff to develop strategies for providing residential drinking water to colonias—which lack access to reliable, safe drinking water—in unincorporated areas of Travis County.

The new price will take effect March 1.