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.