San Antonio Water System customers could be facing a rate increase of nearly 10 percent in 2013. An aging infrastructure is one reason, but another is pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency.
SAWS spokesperson Anne Hayden said each year the EPA targets cities to reduce sewage overflows. San Antonio treats more than 250 million gallons of sewage each day. Hayden said 99.9 percent of that sewage never escapes the system, but the EPA wants even better numbers for compliance with the Clean Water Act.
“It's required that we lower our sewer overflows,” said Hayden. “And while San Antonio does a great job of this right now, we're going to have to reduce it further."
City leaders will have to weigh the needs of the city, the requirements of the EPA, and the cost to customers. But on top of overflow issues, SAWS is also looking at finding alternative sources of water for the future, including desalination.
"We're required to do some investments into [desalination] right now, we're investing in infrastructure for sewer, so we're looking at all of this but still doing everything we can to scrub our budget at SAWS so we can keep down San Antonio's rate payers’ costs,” said Hayden.
If the entire proposal is adopted by the SAWS board, the issue will advance to the full city council for consideration in January. Public meetings would be held in each district to assess community response into an estimated $5 each month to the average water bill.
If the rate increase is adopted in January, customers may see the rise in fees on their March statement.