Oct 17, 2019

San Antonio Water Bill Spikes Spark Discussion on Water Equity

Water bills in San Antonio, Texas have spiked due to SAWS’s water equity-oriented rate structure.

Water bills in San Antonio, Texas have spiked due to SAWS’s water equity-oriented rate structure amidst flooding.

San Antonio Water System’s (SAWS) is hitting some customers with high water bills because of its rate structure, which was built with an equity lens

The SAWS rate structure has eight tiers of pricing based on water usage. With the tiered structure, the less water a household uses, the lower the rate they pay, according to the SAWS website

The rate structure aims to encourage people to use less water and to manage conservation efforts said SAWS Spokesperson Anne Hayden to Fox San Antonio. Texas weather has shifted into drought conditions, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, but drought restrictions have not yet been triggered because the Edwards Aquifer is still above 660 ft.

20,199 gal a month is double what the average American family uses. Going over that number pushes households into the eighth tier, which is 6.5 times more expensive than water in the first tier.

"It makes most sense for the people who are using and demanding that water to pay for it,” Hayden says. "It doesn't make sense from an equity standpoint to have a family who is only using water indoors to pay higher rates for smaller amounts of use. But really, what's driving it is the outdoor watering."

For others, the equity lens rate structure does save money. Last year, more than two-thirds of SAWS customers stayed in the bottom three tiers.

The bulk of customers seeing spikes live on the far north side, where newly-constructed homes often have large landscaping with sprinkler systems, according to SAWS.

SAWS is offering payment plans, extra help for the elderly and disabled, and a sensor that will monitor water use and send an email when a household hits its limit.

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