Houstonians see water rate increase amid claims of inaccurate, high billing

Jonathan Bruce Image
Tuesday, April 2, 2024
Water rates increase amid claims of inaccurate billing in Houston
Houstonians saw an increase in their water bills amid ongoing claims of inaccurate and high statements, which Mayor John Whitmire pledged to resolve.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The cost of water and wastewater bills increased on Monday for many Houstonians amid the ongoing controversy over inaccurately high water billing statements, which Mayor John Whitmire pledged to resolve.

The increase dates back to a previous agreement with the city and the Environmental Protection Agency in 2021 that new annual rates would increase every year on April 1 over five years. This year, the average increase for all customers was 9% for both water and wastewater.

In a statement to ABC13, Houston Public Works called the increase a "necessary adjustment" to the cost of doing business in a growing city to ensure the safety and integrity of the system.

"As Houston grows, we must supply water and wastewater services to our valued customers. These rate adjustments are necessary to pay increases in the cost of operating, maintaining, repairing, and expanding the combined water and wastewater utility system, debt service on the utility system's bonds and other obligations of the utility system, protect the financial integrity of the utility system, and comply with certain bond covenants and all other applicable law," part of the statement reads.

The increase comes as Whitmire prepares to overhaul the city's water meter and billing system. In December, a new nine-point plan was approved to address Houstonians' problems of wildly inaccurate, overly expensive bills. Whitmire has pledged to introduce new measures.

In a statement from Whitmire's office, the city addressed the April 1 rate hike:

"Mayor John Whitmire acknowledges that the City of Houston water rates are increasing as much as 9% for some customers today because of an automatic annual adjustment and a previous administration's agreement with the EPA in 2021. Please note: The increase has nothing to do with Mayor Whitmire's plan to improve water bills. The increase does reinforce the mayor's commitment to ensuring Houstonians receive accurate and fair water bills instead of outrageous and unreliable monthly statements. Fair billing and improved customer service remain a priority for the mayor, and he will share more details during the Wednesday, April 3, city council meeting on today's increase due to the prior adjustment agreement with the federal government in 2021."

A Houston Public Works spokesperson stressed to ABC13 that the 9% increase was an average for all customers and that the rate increases vary based on customer category and consumption. You can find more information on Houston Public Works' website.

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