water-bill-9The El Paso Inc. had an article about your water rates going up, at least for the next two years, in its latest edition. El Paso officials love to remind everyone in El Paso that El Paso is in the desert and as such, water is expensive to deliver. Some of you may remember the water utilities’ “Water Forever” advertising campaign in May of this year. In the television campaign, the water utility demanded that consumers use water, instead of conserving it. On one hand, the water utility wants you to use water and on the other hand it tells you that it needs to raise rates in order to meet the demand.

It is as if the water utility is schizophrenic. Guess what? It is, because the water utility is being forced to do what it shouldn’t do and that is to be a revenue source for the city.

The proof is very evident in “El Paso’s low water rates to rise” by David Crowder in the El Paso, Inc. dated November 2, 2015.

Look closely at the El Paso Inc. article, it tells you that your rates are going to go up. However, as you read the article, look at the word usage. The article starts out with “water is cheap in El Paso compared” to other cities. Crowder than writes that “San Antonio would happily trade places with El Paso” because San Antonio is looking at a $3.4 billion price tag, instead of El Paso’s, proposed $885 million in water source development.

El Paso officials love to compare themselves to other cities, selectively, of course, in order to hoodwink you into the latest ploy to dig deeper into your pocketbook. The problem that the article, and proponents of water fees in El Paso, conveniently ignore is that the El Paso Water Utility is a department of the City of El Paso. More importantly is that the water utility is used to fund city operations by using gimmicky “hidden taxes” that help the city proclaim that it is not raising taxes.

Remember, in addition to the water delivery/usage fees, your water bill includes fees for the storm water utility and the franchise taxes that conveniently fill the city’s tax coffers. However, the city isn’t done with you just yet, your water bill also includes your trash pickup fee and a water replacement charge. All of these fees are fees that the city uses to shore up its bottom line – at your expense.

According to the El Paso, Inc. article, your water bill has gone up an average of 10% from last year and on March 1, 2016, you can expect another increase, all under the guise of living in the desert and that water is scares.

The last bill I paid for in my house in El Paso, back in 2013, was around $42, for an empty house with water sprinklers for my grass. Other than that, there was no water usage at all.

My last water bill in Orlando, for a house with a swimming pool, two adults and one child consuming water, and not to mention a zoo of four pets was a whopping, wait for it$9.46!


Yes, I realize that Orlando isn’t in the desert and I live between two large bodies of water, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. I get that. However, just like in El Paso, Orlando has water restrictions, I can only water once a week during the winter and our ground is so porous waters disappears into the water table almost as soon as it hits the ground.

Comparing water fees between cities is difficult because each city has its own infrastructure to access water and delivery systems but also its own politics. However, one thing that is comparable is the water consumption and added fees.

Look at my water bill and compare it to yours. Look at the additional fees and taxes that are added.

Now look at how much you pay for water and how much I pay for it. Oh yea, that’s right, some municipalities like to make things difficult. Orlando charges per 1,000 gallons consumed, while El Paso fees you at CCFs, or a hundred cubic feet, just to make comparisons much more difficult.

Let me do the math for you. My household used 2,000 gallons, which is equivalent to about 2.6736 CCFs.

The El Paso water company gives you 4 CCFs in their water minimum of $5.59 or $8.70, depending on your meter size. However, keep in mind that if you do not use enough water during the winter you are penalized in El Paso under the “average winter consumption” scam the water utility has implemented. In other words, if you try to conserve, you are penalized in the summer when the city is demanding that you grow grass instead of weeds.

However, let’s continue our comparison with the smallest water meter. In El Paso, my consumption would fall in the 4CCF allocated to me whether I want them or not. We used 2,000 gallons, so in Orlando I pay $1.04 per 1,000 gallons. In other words, my 2,000 gallons cost me $2.08 for water we actually consumed. Additionally, I was assessed a $6.52-meter fee.

In El Paso, that same consumption would have resulted in a bill of about $20.33, assuming the minimum meter connection.

Some of you will likely point out that the bill I am illustrating includes fees such as franchise fees and storm water fees. That is exactly the point that I am trying to illustrate!

It rains in Orlando, so much so that part of my daily gear is an umbrella. Flooding is something the city constantly faces so it stands to reason that storm water management is a significant cost to the community. Did you notice that I did not have a storm water fee on my bill?

Just to be clear, as I fully expect some water company proponents to chime in, my property tax in Orlando is about half of what my El Paso tax bill was, and it includes trash fees.

The bottom line is that politicians will attempt to confuse you with rhetoric about “cheap” water as compared to other selective cities and that El Paso is in the desert. They selectively pick and choose what they like to talk about.

Forget the rhetoric and look at my water bill and compare it to yours. Look at the franchise and storm water fees and remember, those are just hidden taxes that go directly to the city’s coffers.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

6 replies on “Water Shenanigans”

  1. One thing don’t understand, the water and electric company are always low on cash. So why do they pack your bill with “feel good” and “how great El Paso is with conservation” literature?

    Just send the bill, save bs and perhaps the bills will get reduced. All that bs is a waste of money. They actually believe people read it. Straight to the trash can. Oh, buy solar, saves money and engery. Yeah, right then they charge for not using enough. They also forget to tell you older homes need new roofs for the panels. The new homes have new roofs so no problem with the weight.

    Conserve water ? but let’s look for a water park to move here ? Not enough water for the national cemetery but plenty for golf courses and government building areas. Plant trees even faster than Johnny Appleseed. Why we’re in the desert. That’s what we’re always told. Build a useless trolley system that needs electricity to operate. Hhhhmm. The gandola to the top off Transmountain is under used and losing money so the hours were reduced. But somehow a trolley on Oregon street is going to draw a major influx of tourists?

    After a rain, look around and you will see reservoirs with thousand of gallons that just evaporate. A waste, that water could be harvested.

    Whatever happen to the plan to have the west side drink clean water and the rest of the city drinks recycled pee ? Why did the discussion disappear so quickly ?

    Outlaw cars and make people buy camels. Save on pollution that knows to stop at the border, save on street repairs that never get done, saves on parking, less car collisions, the Juarez drivers don’t pay their fines or obey our laws-camels anyway, don’t need inspections or drivers license, no need for traffic signs or lights. Junk your car and ride a camel after all we live in the desert. CONSERVE !

  2. It’s government. Stop looking for rational explanations. They want your money and more of it so they can give it away to the investors and builders and developers to create more sprawl and empty DTEP buildings. Also, you have an extra $50-$100 per month now in your pocket because gas prices are low. Don’t think for a minute they’re going to let you keep it for yourself.

  3. It seems the only option to not be scammed by this city is to move to another town, preferably non-progressive. El Paso sucks because of its government and those who enjoy living off the scams and penalties this city imposes. Most people in this city don’t want to participate in any of the political activities (scams and con-games), so that’s why the voter participation is really low.

    Speaking of a scam, voting is the biggest scam and con that all governments put into place. There is absolutely no traceability.

    So, when you vote for more bonds and spending today, think about the lack (none) of traceability of your vote and that your life will become more difficult when these bonds pass. Also, think about the “con” called government and how it gets bigger and and more infringing.

  4. The biggest difference between Orlando and El Paso: it has an active retirement community that votes. The games that get played here don’t fly–tax and spenders get voted out of office fast. There is no state income tax in Florida either, so it is possible to have low property tax, low utilities and no state income tax if the folks in office actually work for voters. And the whole water forever concept is built on us all drinking recycled pee. It hasn’t gone away. Suspect it is just underground until it is so much of a done deal no one can change it. It is dumb idea because we live in a community with a lot of folks who will never do the “watch what you throw down the drain” precautions that people in urban centers that opt to totally recycle are trained to do. So, we’ll be drinking motor oil, restaurant grease, pesticides, cleaning fluids, prescription drugs and everything else people toss down the drain without thinking here. But, it is all good–right El Paso?

  5. “Some of you will likely point out that the bill I am illustrating includes fees such as franchise fees and storm water fees. That is exactly the point that I am trying to illustrate!” from your article. I agree but I think you fell short on your open records requests: If there are any accounting figures to show the amounts of franchise fees,
    storm water fees and fines, tendered back to the city general fund.

  6. First of all I want to thank Martin Paredes for this informative article. A lot of the previous comments go a lot more in depth than mine will but, it was this that really caught my attention.

    The article starts out with “water is cheap in El Paso compared” to other cities. Crowder than writes that “San Antonio would happily trade places with El Paso” because San Antonio is looking at a $3.4 billion price tag, instead of El Paso’s, proposed $885 million in water source development.

    Just like martin states it’s like they are ‘pre’framing’ us for the upcoming statement, be it true or not that’s exactly what they’re doing.

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