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were far higher than what was a rea- sonable level,” Ramsey said. “We cer- tainly don’t want to run out of money, and we don’t want to go bankrupt, but neither do we need hundreds of mil- lions of dollars in the bank. So, these rate cuts, in part, are funded by the rates being too high in the past.” Ramsey said lowering the rates caused a $25 million loss in revenue. However, the reserve budget is still more than $300 million, he said. Historical rates Before 2023, data from the NHCRWA shows water rates steadily increasing every two years with the last raise in April 2021. Kelly Fessler, one of two remaining incumbents following November’s election, said the former board was not planning on raising rates this year. “I believe the former board was on the right track to achieve our man- dated surface water conversion, and, if they had received the same guid- ance, it may or may not have reduced the rate,” he said. The guidance for the rate change came from John Howell, one of the water authority’s investment consul- tants, Fessler said. Upon hearing the water rate could be lowered without aecting the bond rate, he said he voted in favor of the cut. The West Harris County Regional Water Authority, which covers parts of Cy-Fair south of Hwy. 290, also uses an independent third-party rate ana- lyst to recommend water rates. Water rates in the WHCRWA have generally been the same or lower than NHCRWA’s, but it has never lowered water rates year over year. “The WHCRWA board of directors continues their commitment to keep- ing the cost of water as low as possi- ble and to keeping the periodic rate increases reasonable and consistent with that commitment,” ocials said in an email. Ongoing projects Ramsey said he anticipates no proj- ects or services will be challenged by the loss in revenue. All water infra- structure projects are funded through the capital budget, which is not aected by the rate cuts, he said. However, he said he will look for additional revenue streams includ- ing the use of federal and state infra- structure funds to use for large water infrastructure projects such as the Northeast Water Purication Plant
Groundwater: water pulled from wells and aquifers Surface water: water pulled from surface sources such as Lake Houston
Terms to know:
The $0.50 decrease in water rates is funded by a $30M SURPLUS identied in the NHCRWA’s operating budget.
Water rates for two local regional water authorities show steady increases over time.
NHCRWA WHCRWA Groundwater
North Harris County Regional Water Authority
West Harris County Regional Water Authority
$0 $1.00 $2.00 $3.00 $4.00 $5.00 $6.00
$4.10 $4.35 $3.95 $4.55
2010: NHCRWA surface water rates introduced.
2005: WHCRWA surface water rates introduced.
CONVERTING GROUNDWATER The NHCRWA is required under the plan to convert 40% of its groundwater use to surface water by 2025.
Northeast Water Purication Plant expansion
Projected percent of groundwater converted: Groundwater
In order to facilitate the switch from groundwater to surface water, this $1.4B project in the Lake Houston area will
increase treated surface water capacity from 80M gallons a day to 400M gallons a day by 2024 for parts of Harris and Fort Bend counties. SOURCES: MICHAEL TURCO, HARRISGALVESTON SUBSIDENCE DISTRICTCOMMUNITY IMPACT
Groundwater converted to surface water
SOURCES: MARK RAMSEY, NHCRWACOMMUNITY IMPACT
*PROJECTIONS AFTER 203031 ARE CALCULATED BIYEARLY.
expansion in Humble. The plant, according to the project’s website, treats Lake Houston water and turns it into drinking water for parts of Harris and Fort Bend counties. Michael Turco, general manager of the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District—the special purpose district working with surface water suppliers such as the NHCRWA—said it is the largest water project under construc- tion in the U.S. The $1.4 billion project is scheduled for completion in 2024. Turco said the region’s primary water source, historically, has been from groundwater pumped out of the Gulf Coast Aquifer System. However, to avoid subsidence, or the sinking of the surface, the subsidence district developed a plan to reduce ground- water withdrawal. “There are large amounts of water in our aquifer system; however, if we rely on pumping groundwater as our
they do it.” The HOA maintains two pools and common area irrigation. Adam said the board is trying to mitigate rising fees by tracking water use in com- mon areas and incorporating more drought-resistant plants and rocks in landscaping to minimize water use. Ramsey said the existing water authority board does not intend to raise rates during the ongoing terms. “We are laser-focused on trying to save money every opportunity we can on these water bills. … Right now, we’re turning over every rock we can, and we’ve found that there are some things that don’t have to be done the way they’ve always been done,” he said. Danica Lloyd contributed to this report.
main water supply, there are serious consequences,” Turco said. The NHCRWA and WHCRWA are required under the plan to convert 40% of their groundwater usage to surface water by 2025. Both water authorities conrmed they are on track to meet these goals. Neighborhood-level impacts Lori Adam, a board member for the Longwood Village homeowner’s association, said water authority fees have more than doubled in the past decade. The neighborhood is located near Grant and Louetta roads. “We see it all the time on Facebook, especially when you get someone new that moves into the neighborhood and they get a water bill. They’re like, ‘What is this NHCRWA fee?’” Adam said. “It’s also a challenge [because] we have a fair amount … of xed-in- come residents, and I don’t know how
For more information, visit communityimpact.com .
CYFAIR EDITION • MARCH 2023
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