The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is one step closer to finalizing its rate proposal submitted to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) on May 9, 2023. PWSA and the parties intervening in the rate setting process have reached an agreement – still pending PUC approval – that prioritizes enhancements to customer assistance programs, delivers greater incentives for stormwater improvements, and provides sufficient funding to advance our infrastructure investments in 2024.
The terms of the Settlement will go before the PUC for final approval and if approved would go into effect no sooner than February 15, 2024.
“We’re pleased to propose a Settlement to the PUC that balances enhancing our customer bill assistance programs while continuing to advance our essential infrastructure upgrades,” said PWSA’s CEO Will Pickering. “With these additional resources, we’re confident that we can deliver on our commitment to provide a modern, reliable water system that will serve current and future generations of Pittsburghers.”
Settlement establishes rates for 2024 only
The terms of the Settlement is limited to setting rates for 2024 only with PWSA agreeing to withdraw the request for increases in 2025 and 2026. All parties agreed to a base rate revenue increase of $36,000,000 in the next year, which is $10.8 million less than PWSA requested in its original proposal for 2024. The rate increase allowed by the Settlement for next year is 37% of what PWSA originally requested in the three-year proposal initially brought forward for 2024 through 2026. With PUC approval, the new rates would be effective in February 2024.
If approved, the monthly PWSA bill for a typical residential customer using 3,000 gallons of water per month and charged the base rate for stormwater, would increase by $13.84. For the typical residential customer enrolled in the Bill Discount program, their monthly bill would increase by $5.80. Customers can also expect the Distribution System Improvement Charge or DSIC to remain at 5%.
Once the PUC approves the Settlement, more information will be provided on changes to individual customer classes including residential, residential bill discount customers, and non-residential classes including commercial, industrial, and health and education.
Expansions to Customer Assistance Programs
Our Customer Assistance Programs, first established in 2018, are a permanent part of our rate structure and benefit customers struggling to pay their water bill. PWSA is a national leader for providing customers with multiple avenues for assistance and this rate Settlement continues to demonstrate our leadership.
A benefit brought forward in our original May 9th proposal, and waiting PUC approval, will increase income eligibility for the Bill Discount Program from 150% of the federal poverty level to 200% - making this essential program available to more customers. The current 50% volumetric discount for very low-income customers will increase to 60% and the monthly credit for those enrolled in the Arrearage Forgiveness Program will increase from $30 to $40 provided customers make on time payments.
Customers can also anticipate an expansion of our Hardship Grant Program. Changes going before the PUC include two separate annual grants – one to be distributed to eligible drinking water customers and another to eligible wastewater (sewer) customers. Customers receiving both drinking water and wastewater services from PWSA can benefit from both grants simultaneously. The maximum grant will increase from $300 to $450 and applied as a credit to your PWSA bill. Please visit pgh2o.com/cap for more information about our Customer Assistance programs.
Stormwater Incentives, Credit Program, and Ongoing Community Education
Customers can expect a one-time $40 rain barrel credit. Installing a rain barrel on your property is a simple solution to capture and repurpose the water to maintain your lawn or garden. There will also be expanded community outreach to further educate customers on the need to manage stormwater, collaboration with Pittsburgh Public Schools to identify stormwater mitigation efforts, and broader education about the steps Pittsburgh residents and property owners can take to receive a stormwater credit to reduce their stormwater fee. For additional information about the Stormwater Credit program, please visit pgh2o.com/stormwater-credit.
PENNVEST Recovery Charge
In 2025, PWSA will implement a new charge that will appear on customer bills to pay low-interest PENNVEST loans used to finance the construction of needed infrastructure improvements. If approved, the recovery charge will begin in 2025 and will only include loans closed on or after 2025. Clearly identifying this expense improves transparency about how we are using ratepayer dollars to fund infrastructure projects, like our Water Reliability Plan.
“We appreciate the public’s participation in our rate setting process and the collaboration required to reach the Settlement agreement,” said Alex Sciulli, PWSA’s Board Chair. “This is a critical moment in our history, and we must move forward with these improvements to provide current and future PWSA customers with the water services they can rely on for generations to come.”
For more information about our current rate filing, please visit www.pgh2o.com/our-water-future.