From drinking water, wastewater, and now stormwater to affordability, equity, and assistance for our most financially vulnerable customers, our recent rate settlement signifies the complexity of a modern water utility.
In recent years, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has steadily increased investment in critical water and sewer projects and has developed a robust customer assistance program. With the new stormwater fee, slated to go into effect in early 2022, we will establish a dedicated funding source to improve stormwater management and deliver these necessary services in a more equitable way.
Some of the funding generated by the stormwater fee will be used to construct new stormwater infrastructure. Over time, the benefits of this investment will show up in ways that improve the functionality of our sewer system, reduce pollution in local waterways, and positively affect the quality of water we drink.
How is that possible? When it rains, our sewer system is frequently overwhelmed causing sewage to spill into rivers, which are the primary source of drinking water for us and our downstream neighbors. Since water is a finite resource, even in a water rich region such as Pittsburgh, we want to encourage a “One Water” mindset which asks all of us to value water in all its states — whether its clean drinking water from the tap, rain falling in the river, or wastewater flowing in a sewer.
We need to manage water at every stage and ensure that everyone has equitable access to this essential resource.
The new stormwater fee will be based on a property's impervious or hard surface, which is a more equitable way to charge for stormwater than charging based on metered water usage. The average amount of impervious surface on a property in Pittsburgh is 1,650 square feet. This is equal to one equivalent residential unit (ERU) of impervious surface.
Approximately 70% of all homeowners fall into the second residential tier, or one ERU. Non-residential customers will also be billed based on the ERU system. When the new rates go into effect in early 2022, the typical residential customer currently paying $79.34 per month would see an increase of $5.65 per month, to $84.99.
The stormwater fee also includes a credits and incentives program for residential and non-residential customers who build projects to manage stormwater on their property. We also are seeking an 85% discount for income-eligible customers enrolled in the Bill Discount Program so people who are least able to afford this new fee are not overly burdened. Additionally, the settlement continues to expand existing customer assistance programs to ensure no one has to choose between paying their water bill and other essential expenses.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is reviewing the settlement and expected to make a final decision on or before December 16, 2021.
For more information, please visit Pgh2o.com/our-water-future.