Effective Jan. 1, West Harris County Regional Water Authority will increase its water rates by $0.25, said Marisa Perez, a community outreach specialist for the Surface Water Supply Project, on behalf of WHCRWA.
Meanwhile, the North Fort Bend County Water Authority plans to discuss a $0.30 increase for 2020 at its Dec. 19 meeting, said Christina Miller, an attorney with Allen Boone Humphries Robinson LLP, who represents NFBCWA.
WHCRWA’s groundwater rate will increase from $2.95 per 1,000 gallons to $3.20 per $1,000 gallons, and its surface water rate will increase from $3.35 per 1,000 gallons to $3.60 per $1,000 gallons, according to WHCRWA’s website.
If NFBCWA's board of directors approves the increase at its next meeting, its groundwater rate will increase from $3.65 per 1,000 gallons to $3.95 per 1,000 gallons, and its surface water rate will increase from $4 per 1,0000 gallons to $4.30 per 1,000 gallons, Miller said.
WHCRWA and NFBCWA are wholesale providers, not retail providers, Perez said. The water authorities charge these water rates to well owners, utility districts and municipalities, who then charge residential and commercial customers.
Both authorities have steadily increased their water rates in recent years.
In 2014, HWCRWA’s groundwater and surface water rates were $1.90 per $1,000 gallons and $2.30 per 1,000 gallons, respectively. That same year, NFBCWA had a groundwater rate of $3.35 per 1,000 gallons and a surface water rate of $3.70 per 1,000 gallons.
Why rates are increasing
The authorities’ increased rates are meant to help pay for billion-dollar water infrastructure projects to reduce their dependence on groundwater, Perez and Miller said.
When a large amount of groundwater is pumped out of the land, it can cause subsidence, which is the sinking of land surface, Perez said. This increases the risk of flooding and can cause structural damage, according to the authorities’ websites.
The Harris-Galveston Subsidence District and the Fort Bend Subsidence District have mandated that the water authorities reduce their groundwater usage by 60% by 2025, Perez and Miller said.
The subsidence districts have the ability to charge a disincentive permit fee to water providers that do not meet surface water conversion deadlines, Perez and Miller said. These disincentive fees range from about $6.50 per 1,000 gallons to $9.24 per 1,000 gallons.
“This could end up being an extremely expensive proposition,” Perez said.
WHCRWA’s rate increase is meant to help pay for the more than $1.8 billion in total capital costs through 2025 that will help reduce the authority’s dependence on groundwater, Perez said. Both WHCRWA and NFBCWA are partnering on projects that include expansions of purification plants and installations of additional water pipelines.