ROCKWALL – There are are two main reasons why officials say water bills have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled for many Rockwall and Northeast Dallas area homeowners the past few months.
First, costs are going up because of a series of little-known rate increases charged over the past few years by the North Texas Municipal Water District to member cities to pay for badly-needed infrastructure improvements.
City officials say they have no choice but to pass the rate increases on to residents. Many of the cities are being charged an extra 10 percent.
The 13 member cities of the North Texas Municipal Water District are Allen, Farmersville, Forney, Frisco, Garland, McKinney, Mesquite, Princeton, Plano, Richardson, Rockwall, Royse City and Wylie.
The cities are some of the fastest-growing in the country. With more people comes a need for more water.
According to NTMWD Executive Director Tom Kula, water doesn’t come without investing hundreds of millions in mammoth new projects to provide more water, such as the $1 billion Lower Bois D’Arc Creek Reservoir, the first reservoir to be built in Texas in three decades.
There’s also a $100 million pump station for the Trinity River and dredging projects for Lakes Lavon and Chapman. The district is still paying for the $300 million pipeline extension needed after zebra mussels invaded Lake Texoma.
The NTMWD and cities have less money because the water district had imposed years of water conservation restrictions in our drought-stricken area to have enough water to supply.
But although they saved water, they also sold less water and earned less to pay for infrastructure costs.
Under NTMWD’s take-or-pay system, member cities always have to pay for a set amount of water, no matter how much they conserve.
At this rate, cities won’t stop seeing at least 10 percent rate increases for another five years, according to current NTMWD projections.
Second, homeowners have been using more water since drought restrictions were lifted by the NTMWD and member cities.
For example, Fate City Manager Michael Kovacs said the City used a record amount of water – over 70 million gallons – during the hot, dry billing period of July 15 to Aug. 19.
He said outdoor water use is the main culprit.
“Customer contact so far has shown that outdoor water uses are the primary culprit. We have found many customers have returned to their pre-drought watering habits, but rates are more than in 2012-2013.”
He says many residents do have sticker shock at the cost of the progressive rates’ effect on near restriction-less outdoor water use.
“Progressive rates means the more water used, the higher the rate per 1,000 gallons,” he explained.
But he says the system is accurate.
“The City has performed over 210 account billing and meter verifications between Aug. 19th and Aug. 27th. All are coming back accurate,” he added.
If you are experiencing high water bills, experts recommend checking for issues like leaks and lowering your weekly lawn watering times. You should also contact your utility provider if you feel there is a discrepancy.
By J.J. Smith