December is a time to reflect upon the past while planning for the year ahead. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is transforming as an organization with a renewed focus on public health, the environment and being steadfast stewards of the water services our customers rely on each day.
We are entering a new era - one that emphasizes the importance of regulatory compliance for the environment and water quality, strategic investment in our infrastructure, and challenges all employees to meet the ethical standards we have set for the organization. I look towards the New Year with much optimism for providing the water services Pittsburgh expects and deserves.
One of the ways in which we are doing this is with a renewed focus on ethics and environmental compliance. As a public water utility, the services we provide directly affect the health and well-being of those we serve. We have developed an environmental compliance program and put in place enhanced ethics training for all employees. These programs, along with an enhanced focus on accountability to the public, are being embraced by employees at all levels of the organization.
We also continue to enhance our customer assistance programs. First introduced in 2018, these programs are expanding to assure that water remains accessible for families that need financial help. With more than 5,000 eligible customers enrolled in our Bill Discount Program and the implementation of our PGH2O Cares teams, our customer assistance programs will continue to provide the assistance many of our customers need.
In 2022, we will introduce new program enhancements to the Bill Discount Program including an 85% discount on the new stormwater fee, an expansion of the Hardship Grant Program to include sewage-only customers, and automatic enrollment for all verified low-income customers into the Winter Shutoff Moratorium. The PGH2O Cares team, established earlier this year, will continue its proactive outreach and education. This group of dedicated PWSA employees is an essential component of our existing customer assistance programs, and we are seeing that their efforts are working to build awareness and increase enrollment.
The approval of our new stormwater fee is a notable change for Pittsburgh. It builds equity into our rate structure that wasn’t previously there. Historically, we have funded our stormwater services from wastewater rates that are based on water usage. The new stormwater fee is based on the hard or impervious surfaces on a property. This ensures that all property owners in Pittsburgh contribute a share that is proportional to the amount of runoff generated by their property. Establishing a fee that is based on hard surfaces such as roofs, pavement, and asphalt is a widely accepted and more equitable way to charge for stormwater.
With the passage of the federal infrastructure bill in November, we will do all we can to leverage this additional funding to support the massive investment we are making in our infrastructure. The bill includes $55 billion for water, including money for lead line removal and the types of infrastructure investment already underway at PWSA. I want to assure you that we are going to absolutely make the most of this historic opportunity and we feel that the timing couldn’t be better.
We are excited for what the future holds for PWSA and are making every effort to be a better and more reliable community partner. On behalf of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, I wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday!