With issues such as drought, flooding, and infrastructure (not to mention zebra mussels and the occasional spot of toxic algae) pretty much always on the table when it comes to Austin’s water supply, it’s refreshing to get some relatively good news about how much it will cost to keep it coming and going in local residences for the foreseeable future.
On Tuesday, Austin Water released a report that projects a decrease in its customers’ water and wastewater bills over the next several years. In fact, the study finds that those customers have already been spending less and predicts the trend will continue.
Of course, that’s relative to income, which has increased nearly 30 percent between fiscal years 2014 and 2019, according to US Census data. The report found that, as a percentage household income, the average residential customer’s yearly bill started decreasing in 2017, when it was 1.7 percent of MFI, and decreased to 1.22 percent in FY2021. It projects that trajectory to continue downward in 2022, to, an estimated 1.19% of annual income.
The report also looks at “internal metrics and benchmarks to compile a comprehensive study of the utility’s efforts to stabilize rates and improve affordability for customers of all incomes” and is thusly named the Austin Water Affordability Metrics Report, according to the Thursday announcement on the city’s website.
“Affordability drives Austin Water’s financial management approach,” said Joseph Gonzales, Austin Water’s assistant director of financial services. “By putting affordability at the center of what we do, we’ve been able to implement successful strategies so that Austin Water has not had to raise rates since 2018, while continuing to make investments in the performance and resilience of our infrastructure.”
While the report mentions repair programs for low-income families as well as those made available for some homeowners for Winter Storm Uri 2021 damage, as well as infrastructure-related fees for new development, it does not delve into the completion of or plans for larger improvements to existing infrastructure.