El Paso Water Utilities customers could pay $50 more a year under rate increase

EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso Water Utilities customers will see higher bills after the Public Service Board voted Wednesday to increase the water and wastewater fee, effective March 1.

The 8 percent rate increase, which applies to homes and businesses, means that the average family could have to pay about $50 more a year, or about $4.16 more a month. That's based on EPWU's estimate that the average household uses about 10,000 gallons of water a month.

However, EPWU said the increase will encourage people to conserve water. Under the policy, if residences or commercial properties use fewer than about 2,000 gallons of water a month, they won't incur the fee increase and would instead pay about $5 less a month.

EPWU said only about 10 percent of its customers use that amount.

EPWU also said the fee increase is necessary because it will help pay for water conservation measures, like a new water treatment plant, that could help people save money.

"We're in the 18th year of this drought," EPWU spokeswoman Christina Montoya said. "We need to start looking at other water sources. We need new water sources so we can continue to meet that demand."

EPWU did not increase water and wastewater fees during the current fiscal year, 2015, but in fiscal year 2014, the fee went up 5 percent. In the fiscal year before that, the fee went up 3 percent.

The money from the new fee increase will not go toward flood control measures, however. EPWU said the Public Service Board will discuss a possible stormwater fee increase early next year that could go toward those projects.