The San Jacinto River Authority is increasing groundwater and surface water rates for its fiscal year 2020 budget for the first time since 2016, according to a June 28 release from the SJRA. The SJRA is a wholesale provider of surface water and groundwater.
SJRA's rate for groundwater is now $2.73 per 1,000 gallons and $3.15 per 1,000 gallons for surface water—an increase from $2.64 and $2.83 respectively. The rate adjustment applies to cities, municipal utility districts and independently-owned utilities participating in the SJRA's Groundwater Reduction Plan, according to the release.
Uncertainty surrounding groundwater conservation rules set by the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District—an entity that regulates groundwater resources in Montgomery County—in part led to the rate adjustment, the release stated. The release also cited uncollected revenue as well as the need to fund the authority's surface water treatment plant as other reasons for the rate adjustment.
“The GRP water plant was built to satisfy [the LSGCD's] requirements that we develop a plan to use less groundwater,” SJRA General Manager Jace Houston said in the release. “Utilities throughout the Greater Houston region have been working to achieve stable, reliable groundwater levels for almost 50 years. We expect [the LSGCD] to work with all utilities in Montgomery County on a way to manage groundwater responsibly instead of changing their requirements and creating risks and uncertainty. Changing the rules is costly for utilities, cities and MUDs. Ultimately everyone’s water bills go up, not down.”
The rate adjustment comes following the Texas Water Development Board's rejection of the LSGCD's proposed groundwater management plan for Montgomery County in May, requiring the LSGCD to submit a new management plan with new objectives and performance standards.