On December 2, 2016, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s (PWSA) Board of Directors approved a $130 million operating budget for 2017 and a two year rate plan. The budget and rate plan will enable PWSA to deliver $60 million worth of projects in 2017 to rebuild and improve the City’s water system.
Beginning January 1, 2017, PWSA’s rates will increase by $6.90 per month for the average residential customer. The Board of Directors also approved rates for 2018, which would increase rates by an additional $4.80 per month for the average residential customer.
“The Board of Directors understands the burden any rate increases imposes on our customers, but an increase is needed because the Authority must address its deteriorating financial condition. We must also invest in critical infrastructure and comply with important regulatory mandates from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) such as lead line removal and reduction of stormwater overflows,” said Chairman of PWSA’s Board of Directors Alex W. Thomson.
PWSA Interim Executive Director Bernard Lindstrom said, “This rate increase is sorely needed given the many opportunities PWSA has to address neglected water infrastructure, improve drinking water quality, eliminate wastewater flooding, and improve the customer service experience. Overall, it is a good start toward achieving our vision to enhance the quality of life for all Pittsburgh residents through water.”
PWSA has over $750 million in debt. In 2016, $54 million of the Authority’s budget was devoted to paying the principal and interest on this debt. The Board-approved 2017 budget and rates are intended to improve its financial position by paying for more of PWSA’s capital investments out of the operating budget, establishing a higher reserve and restructuring a portion of this debt. Ultimately, this effort will reduce the amount of ratepayer funds used to pay debt and direct more toward delivering projects and customer service.
In 2017, PWSA is required to replace at least 7% of its lead service lines. Lead can be found in the service lines that run from water mains to homes. These service lines are a joint responsibility; PWSA owns the portion of the line in public space, and homeowners own the portion on private space that connects to their property. This mandatory program is an important step toward removing sources of lead found in drinking water. PWSA will also use funds in 2017 to continue to provide free lead test kits to its customers.
Pittsburgh is largely served by a combined sewer system, where sewage and rainwater share the same conveyance pipes. During storm events, the combined sewer system is often overwhelmed, causing combined sewage and stormwater to overflow into waterways and cause local flooding as well as basement sewer backups. The 2017 budget and the rate plan for 2017 and 2018 will help begin to solve these problems by utilizing green infrastructure. Green infrastructure practices like rain gardens, tree plantings, stream restorations, and pervious pavement mimic natural processes to slow and capture rainwater while also providing environmental and social benefits.
As in many older American cities, much of Pittsburgh’s water and sewer infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. Elements of PWSA’s drinking water treatment plant were constructed in the early 1900s and critical elements of the water conveyance system were installed in the 1850s. The 2017 budget and the two-year rate structure will expand the Authority’s ability to maintain and replace these aging assets, which are essential to delivering high quality drinking water.
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is the largest combined water and sewer authority in Pennsylvania, serving 300,000 consumers throughout the City of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. Our 250 employees are city residents and are committed to enhancing Pittsburgh’s quality of life by delivering high quality water.