How are we going to pay for water projects?

February 3, 2010 3:55:10 PM PST
The city of Houston is trying to come up with the money for much-needed water and sewer infrastructure projects and this is where you, the taxpayer, come in. More of your hard earned money could be going to your water bill as city leaders search for a way to come up with much needed funds to upgrade our aging system.

At the Rivers Oaks Plant House in southwest Houston, water is a crucial necessity.

"Most of the product we have here, cut flowers plants and even our water fountains, depends on water," said Eduard Ramirez with the River Oaks Plant House.

That's why when employees hear of possible rate hike, it's a bit unsettling.

"Its really hurting just to think about raising some type of rate anything at all," said Ramirez.

While nothing has been formally presented to city council, Houston Mayor Annise Parker says she is open to a rate increase based on the fact that the current rate of water prices are being outpaced by the cost of maintaining infrastructure.

Revenue from water bills goes into the combined utility system, which pays for not just fixing and repairing water and sewage lines, but drainage projects as well.

"You have a structural imbalance," said Mayor Parker. "Money coming in based on the water sewer side and yet, we're pulling some of that money out to fund drainage."

While previous studies have shown a rate increase would have to be significant, in the range of 14 percent, Councilmember Sue Lovell cautioned about reading too much into those numbers now.

"I urge your administration and through our committee that we get correct facts out to the public so that when it comes time to make that decision, they understand what we're voting on," she aid.

Councilmember C.O. Bradford is against any rate hike at all. His solution calls for tightening the belt.

"My specific concern is we must reduce spending in the city of Houston," said Bradford.

For resident Teresa Dyer, given the current economy, she's torn between her needs and the city's.

"I understand the needs of the city," she said. "I also know people are living check by check and it's not easy."

Though Mayor Parker says this is a crucial issue, she says it likely won't be on city council's agenda for several months. She does, however, want to have a decision by the end of the year.