Members of the Houston City Council on June 2, 2021. Photo by Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media.

Houston water and wastewater rates are set to increase in September after Houston City Council passed a measure Wednesday to upgrade the city’s aging water and sewer systems.

The price hike will bring about a $4 increase per month during the first year for an average single-family home, which uses about 3,000 gallons of water per month, according to Houston Public Works.

Rates will then move upward every April for the next five years, ending in 2026 with an approximate 78% increase to water and wastewater rates for an average single-family home.

After city council convened, Mayor Sylvester Turner said the price increase would ensure that Houstonians have access to clean water.

“There is never a good time to raise people’s water rates,” Turner said. “When you turn on that faucet, and you can’t get your water…then everyone has a problem.”

The additional funds from the price hike will help the city comply with a $2 billion consent decree agreement with the EPA. The agreement was finalized in 2019, and requires the city to enact infrastructure updates over a 15 year period in order to fix its leaking sewer system.

According to the mayor, the city has seen over 9,000 sanitary sewer overflow incidents over a five year period.

“The infrastructure in the city of Houston is aging,” he said. “Those infrastructure needs must be addressed.”

A majority of council members approved the increase, with 12 votes in favor, including District J Council member Edward Pollard, who said the council shouldn’t delay the matter any further because system upgrades are urgently needed now.

“At the end of the day, we have to look at the needs of the city to make sure that the infrastructure and the needs of the city are put in place,” Pollard said, “so that the well being of the citizens of Houston don’t come back on the back end and say, ‘why didn’t y’all do something when y’all knew that you needed improvements?'”

Council members Amy Peck, Greg Travis, Mike Knox and Michael Kubosh voted against it.

Houston’s water rate will still be among the lowest in the entire country, compared to other major cities, despite the newly enacted price increase, according to Houston Public Works.


STATEMENT FROM THE MAYOR’S OFFICE

Houston City Council approved a water and wastewater rate increase for Houston water customers to help improve infrastructure and meet federally required guidelines to address sanitary sewer overflows. The measure passed 12-4 and will become effective on September 1.

“Our water and wastewater system needs to be reliable, dependable and of good quality,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “I thank City Council for passing today’s measure and recognizing that water is an essential and critical infrastructure that must be addressed and improved. The importance of a resilient water and wastewater system became clear after Hurricane Harvey, Winter Storm Uri, and COVID-19. Having adequate and sound infrastructure will take us one step closer to building a more resilient Houston.”  

The water and wastewater rates will increase every year over the next five years and include the cost of making the first five years of investments agreed upon in the Consent Decree agreement with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the EPA. Because of the agreement, Houston is required to resolve sanitary sewer overflows and other wastewater violations by paying fines and making improvements to the wastewater system over the next 15 years.

Houston’s wastewater system is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the nation, with approximately 6,000 miles of wastewater pipes, 382 lift stations to move waste due to Houston’s flat topography, and 39 wastewater treatment plants.

Problems with Houston’s wastewater system began before Mayor Turner was elected. During negotiations with the EPA, the administration took a Houston-specific approach based on the city’s documented problems.

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