Water Rates to Rise in New Year

Increased costs for city passed on to customers

By Chris Van Horne
|  Friday, Dec 30, 2011  |  Updated 5:28 PM CDT
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Rising water rates mean an increase in costs for businesses who depend on water, not only residents.

Chris Van Horne, Fort Worth journalist

Rising water rates mean an increase in costs for businesses who depend on water, not only residents.

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The new year will bring new water rates for customers in Fort Worth.

The City Council approved rate hikes for water, wastewater and stormwater back in September to offset growing costs and needed capital improvement projects.

The water and wastewater increases will average $1.58 on a customer’s bill. However, the more water you use the higher your rate and bill will be.

At 5th Avenue Greenhouses in Near Southside, water is a major cost of doing business. The greenhouse doesn't sell to the public, but rather local florists.

“It’s what keeps us going,” said owner Brad Ebeling. “We’re producing plants in the greenhouses and something gets watered every single day.”

Ebeling said his water bills run around $400 in the winter and $1,400 in the summer.

While he doesn’t know exactly how much his bills will increase with the new rates, he knows they will go up. But he doesn’t plan on raising his prices for customers.

“Just grin and bear it,” Ebeling said, “because it would be hard to raise prices in this economy.”

The reason for the water and wastewater rate increases comes down to two major factors. First the cost of raw water has gone up and second, the city needs to increase the capital improvements fund.

“We do what we can to hold costs low, but our costs for the services we use and the chemicals, the materials and the cost of raw water go up,” said Mary Gugliuzza of the Fort Worth Water Department. “So those end up getting pass on to our customers.

Gugliuzza said that the city has delayed making large purchases and taking on some upgrades in recent years to avoid raising costs on customers. However, she said the city can no longer defer those expenditures and need to find and fix problem areas in the system so that they don’t become more expensive issues down the road.

The best way customers can avoid bigger costs is to conserve and become more efficient with their water use. However, that’s not always an option for customers like Ebeling.

“At this point we’ll just have to pay it and move on,” he said.

Ebeling hopes his bills don’t get to the point where he might have to follow the city’s lead and pass the higher costs on to his customers. He said in order to stay competitive he won’t do that.

The storm water rate increase will help pay for $80 million in improvements over the next two years. But that is just a small fraction of the flooding and drainage problems the city has identified. The city says there is $1 billion worth of work needing to be done to improve drainage and flooding.

While the rates will go into effect on Sunday, customers won’t likely notice a difference until their late January or February bill arrives.

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