On Sept. 10, 2019, Austin’s City Council voted to keep residential and commercial water rates at their current reduced level into fiscal year 2019/2020. The vote comes on the recommendation from Austin Water as it works to make water service more affordable. The reduced water rate was introduced in 2018, when residential and commercial customers received a 4.8% rate reduction, saving customers a combined total $26.7 million on their water bills annually.
“Making water service more affordable continues to be a top priority,” said David Anders, Assistant Director of Austin Water – Financial Services. “We’re proud of the work that we are doing to find savings in many areas of the utility - savings which have helped us keep water rates at their current reduced level for our customers.”
When the majority of water utilities across the country are increasing rates by 5% year-over-year, Austin Water is defying national trends - finding efficiencies and savings which have been contributing factors in Austin Water’s multi-year plan to stabilize water rates and make water service more affordable.
Innovations and modernizing of equipment, processes, infrastructure, and strategic debt management have been contributing factors in Austin Water’s success in stabilizing water rates. As an example, the utility has found efficiencies and savings by:
· Phasing out traditional desktop computers in favor of dual purpose laptops which can be used in the office or in mobile settings
· Replacing wastewater treatment plant equipment with energy efficient components
· Using low-interest loans to upgrade infrastructure while saving on interest payments
· Using debt defeasance to reduce overall debt service
The utility also has one of the most robust affordability programs for low-income customers. Last month, Austin Water announced a new partnership and more than $350,000 in funding for the City of Austin’s Neighborhood Housing Community Development - GO Repair! Program, which helps low-income Austinites make plumbing repairs.
Improving affordability is a component of the utility’s long-term strategic business plan that uses Effective Utility Management strategies to meet the challenges ahead. The utility has chosen to focus on improving Stakeholder Understanding and Support with an emphasis on Affordability, Customer Satisfaction, Employee and Leadership Development, and Infrastructure Stability. Taken together, improvements in these target areas will help the utility continue to be an industry leader and improve operations and resiliency.