Guest column for the Texas Chapter of the American Water Works Association
by Amber Freeland
Texas is Growing
Texas is growing and most of our communities are feeling the pressure to keep up. According to the latest reports from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly half a million people have moved to the Lone Star State since 2015. In fact, nearly 1200 new residents move to Texas each day. So how does it affect the water industry?
Thanks to a number of factors, corporate relocations are bringing more than just their headquarters to our state. Companies like Toyota are relocating to Texas to take advantage of the tax breaks and centralized location, bringing with them thousands of employees and their families. As our local populations grow, so must our water and wastewater systems. Communities in North Texas and across our great state are frequently touted as among the best cities to live in and fastest growing in the U.S.
The Price of Growth
But growth comes at a price. Behind every gallon of water delivered to homes and businesses is a massive system of pipelines, pumps and treatment facilities that must be operated, maintained and funded. Many water systems in the state, including the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD), have pipelines and other facilities built in the 1950’s or earlier. Aging water infrastructure requires maintenance and rehabilitation. Nationwide, there is significant public support for spending on water infrastructure. A poll conducted by the Value of Water Campaign and released last month showed 82% of Americans view rebuilding water systems as extremely or very important. Combined with the increasing cost of regulatory compliance to keep water safe, it’s easy to see why water rates are going up across the country.
If you ask people what their water bill pays for, most assume it simply covers the amount of water they use. The average customer doesn’t know or think about what it takes to get water to their tap. At NTMWD, only 15% of the wholesale water rate covers the amount of water actually used. The remaining 85% is needed to fund fixed costs like operations, maintenance, infrastructure and debt repayments. This also includes funding for planning and constructing major new water sources, like the proposed Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, to meet future needs.
Additionally, the crisis in Flint, Michigan highlighted the fundamental importance of water in the community. Water service is a vital aspect of public health, safety, and quality of life. Reliable service is essential to keeping our communities healthy, thriving and safe from threats such as disease and fire.
Water Rates Pay for #MoreThanWater
For too long, Americans have generally taken for granted that water will always flow from their taps when needed. Now, after years of low water rates during a time when populations have increased dramatically, water providers have no choice but to raise rates to provide the same reliable service. Investments are critical to repair aging infrastructure, comply with changing regulations and secure new supplies to support our growing communities. So, how do we face the public outcry over higher costs? We must work together to show consumers that they are paying for #MoreThanWater.
How Are You Sharing Your Water Story?
How can we show residents that water rates pay for #MoreThanWater? Here are some ideas: