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EPWater budgets focus on infrastructure, customer service, flood control

In two budget workshops in early November, El Paso Water President and CEO John Balliew rolled out budget proposals for a $490 million water and wastewater system budget and a $51.1 million stormwater system budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

The Public Service Board will consider an 8 percent rate increase for water and wastewater, which would result in an additional $3.98 per month for the typical homeowner. The PSB will consider a 2 percent fee increase for stormwater, which translates into an additional 8 cent fee.

When combined, the average homeowner could be looking at an additional $4.06 per month for water services, starting in March.

Water and wastewater priorities

“As El Paso’s population grows, we must continue to develop new water resources and extend infrastructure to the east and west to serve new developments of homes and businesses, said EPWater President and CEO John Balliew. “We also have a new set of strategic priorities to improve customer service, efficiency and reliability.”

With El Paso pipelines averaging 44 years old and problems arising from aging infrastructure, the utility has also prioritized replacement of wells, pumps and wastewater lift stations, which transport wastewater to treatment plants.

Stormwater priorities

With the completion of stormwater projects in Central El Paso to reduce flooding, the focus has shifted toward several other flood-prone problem spots in West, Lower Valley and Northeast El Paso, Balliew said. Completed projects in Central El Paso have resulted in 65 million gallons of pond capacity created for flood control on Interstate 10.

“We continue to prioritize flood control projects that make the most impact to protect public safety and private property,” Balliew said.

PSB consideration of budgets and rates

“Even though we are proposing another single-digit rate increase, we have avoided higher increases and have held rates and fees lower than other cities in Texas, other desert cities and even other border cities,” he said.

“We take seriously the obligation to secure El Paso’s future water resources, and that costs money,” said Henry Gallardo, PSB chair during public comment at Monday’s budget workshop. “But we are very sensitive to rate increases and will be looking hard at all of this before making a final decision.”

The PSB will consider and vote on both the rate and fee increases at its Jan. 10 meeting. If approved, the new budget and fees would go into effect at the beginning of the fiscal year, which begins March 1.