Not an April Fools' joke: April 1 marks water rate increase across Houston

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Saturday, April 1, 2023
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Houston is about to trigger a water rate hike that came about as part of a council vote. It's intended to increase over a five-year period.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- No, you may not be using more water.

Starting Saturday, the city of Houston is increasing rates, and some neighbors might be shocked to find out by how much.

No fooling: Water, wastewater rates go up April 1

Houston dealt with a record number of water main breaks this past summer. A plan is underway to address aging infrastructure. It comes, though, at a time when Houstonians are already faced with higher prices.

"It depends on the day. Seeing the gas change, but mostly the groceries stores is what's hitting us hard," Jacel Houston, a city resident, said.

"It hurts," another Houstonian, Larry Jacobs, said. "You know how people say, 'It hurts the wallet?' A lot of people are going through this. It's not just me. Everywhere you go, that's all they're talking about."

Starting Saturday, something else is about to go up. If you get water from the city of Houston, you should get ready to pay more.

"Unfortunately, every time there's a rate increase, people are shocked, and now we're talking about an even bigger increase," City Council Members Amy Peck, who serves city's District A, explained.

What's behind the water, wastewater rate hikes

Two years ago, Council Member Peck voted against a rate increase. She wasn't in the majority.

It passed, and over the course of five years, water bills will go up. But this year, there's even more.

Because of a population increase, and the cost of goods, an additional 9% will be added as well.

"It's really difficult," Peck said. "All of these fees and fines really add up at the end of the day."

How much will your bill rise? It'll depend

ABC13 asked Houston Public Works for a chart showing how your bill will be impacted.

Officials combined the approved rate increase, as well as the new inflationary rate.

Here's the breakdown:

  • If you use 1,000 gallons of water, your bill will go up by $4 a month.
  • If you use 2,000 gallons, it'll increase by $5.
  • If you use 3,000 gallons, it'll increase by $6.
  • If you use 4,000 gallons, the monthly bill will rise by $10.
  • If you use 5,000 gallons, it'll go up by $13.
  • If you use 6,000 gallons, it'll go up by nearly $16 a month.

Federal dollars that could lower bills haven't arrived yet

At the time, council passed something that would allow them to reduce fees if federal money arrived from the infrastructure bill. So far, though, the city has come up dry.

"The infrastructure bill, however, they're not direct allocations, and we have to go through that whole grant process," City Council Member Tiffany Thomas, who serves District F, explained.

Thomas voted for the five-year increase. At the time, there wasn't record inflation.

She adds there aren't regrets but admits the new bills won't be easy for everyone to pay.

"The reality is we're an older city," Thomas said. "We have to invest in our infrastructure. We have to make hard decisions. That's a hard decision."

Money-saving solutions for your bill

If you're wondering how this impacts you, Houston Public Works has a calculator where you can input your water usage. We're told they're working to update it this weekend, so you can see the higher rate.

If you're looking to save money, here's the biggest thing you can do. The city gives a conservation credit if you keep usage below 4,000 gallons.

The bill nearly doubles for someone when you go from 3,000 gallons to 4,000. There's also a "Water Aid To Elderly Residents" fund, in which qualified neighbors can receive up to $100 within a six-month period.

There are also interest-free payment agreements, which prevents late fees and service interruptions, as long as the agreed upon payments are received by the due date each month.

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