PWSA announces approval of rate structure including stormwater fee
November 30, 2021
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority announced changes to water and wastewater conveyance rates and the adoption of a new stormwater fee were approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) during their November 18 public meeting.
The new rates will go into effect on January 12, 2022. This is the final step in the ratemaking process that started with PWSA's rate request submitted on April 13, 2021.
The new rates, including the stormwater fee, will generate $21 million in additional revenue phased in over two years. In 2022, revenue will increase by $17 million, and in 2023 it will increase by an additional $4 million. The average residential customer using 3,000 gallons of water per month will see an increase of $5.65 in 2022 and an increase of $1.44 in 2023.
With the approval of the new rates, the typical residential customer enrolled in our low-income customer assistance Bill Discount Program using 3,000 gallons of water per month will increase to $43.09 in 2022 or by $1.32 per month. In 2023 this will increase to $44.15 or by $1.06 per month. The approval also includes enhancements to customer assistance programs and a financial incentive for consumers to enroll in auto-pay.
"Today's approval of our new rates and the stormwater fee reflect the ongoing renewal of our water and sewer infrastructure and will significantly change how we fund stormwater improvements," stated Will Pickering, PWSA's Chief Executive Officer.
"With input from the PUC and community stakeholders, we developed a balanced rate settlement that prioritizes the needs of our most vulnerable customers and the investment we must make to ensure the safety and reliability of our water, sewer, and stormwater systems," Mr. Pickering stated.
With any rate increase, PWSA must consider the affordability of rates and provide their most vulnerable customers with the assistance they need. The PUC approval provides additional enhancements to existing customer assistance programs that will help customers reduce outstanding balances, save on their monthly bill, and expand current programs to more customers.
Among other benefits, PWSA will double the monthly arrearage forgiveness credit from $15 to $30 for on-time payments made by customers who are enrolled in the Bill Discount Program and on an active payment plan - very low-income customers enrolled in the Bill Discount Program will receive a 50% discount on water usage charges, and all customers enrolled in the Bill Discount Program will receive an 85% discount on the stormwater charge.
Additionally, PWSA will continue to waive reconnection fees for all customers in 2022. They are also expanding the Hardship Grant Program to include sewage-only customers, and all verified low-income customers will automatically be enrolled in the Winter Shutoff Moratorium.
The PGH2O Cares team, established earlier this year, will continue its outreach and education to customers who are eligible for customer assistance programs. Their one-on-one interaction with customers is providing the extra boost many need to enroll in programs to receive the support they deserve.
Historically, PWSA has funded its stormwater services from wastewater rates based on water usage. The new stormwater fee is based on the hard or impervious surfaces on a property. This ensures that all property owners in Pittsburgh contribute a share that is proportional to the amount of runoff generated by their property.
As part of the implementation of the new stormwater fee, wastewater conveyance rates will decrease since the new stormwater fee will begin to recover the stormwater costs previously included.
The new stormwater fee is a significant change to PWSA's rate structure. It provides a dedicated funding source for stormwater management and puts them on the path to, over time, increase investment in stormwater projects that include improvements to our sewer system and green infrastructure like rain gardens and street planters to help catch, retain, and filter stormwater runoff.
For more information about the stormwater program, visit http://www.pgh2ostormwater.com.