With many Austinites challenged by rising home ownership costs and rent increases, Austin Water has made water and wastewater services increasingly affordable year after year. A report released Wednesday shows Austin Water customers have progressively paid less on their water bill as a percentage of household income, a trend that is forecasted to continue for years to come. The trends and improvements to affordability are highlighted in the 2021 Affordability Metric Report available at AustinWater.org.
"Affordability drives Austin Water's financial management approach," said Joseph Gonzales, Austin Water's Assistant Director of Financial Services. "By putting affordability at the center of what we do, we've been able to implement successful strategies so that Austin Water has not had to raise rates since 2018, while continuing to make investments in the performance and resilience of our infrastructure."
The report studied water and wastewater service costs in Austin and found that the average residential customer's annual bill as a percentage of median household income (MHI) has improved year over year, starting at 1.47% in FY2017, decreasing to 1.22% in FY2021. Austin Water also projects that customers will spend even less in FY2022, an estimated 1.19% of their annual income on water and wastewater bills.
Improvements to the affordability metric is due to Austin Water's successful initiatives that have stabilized water rates. Austinites received rate reductions in FY2018, zero rate increases since FY2019, and no rate increases are proposed for FY2022.
The report also examines internal metrics and benchmarks to compile a comprehensive study of the utility's efforts to stabilize rates and improve affordability for customers of all incomes.
The first Affordability Metric Report was provided to Austin City Council in 2018 and set the benchmark for future analysis and evaluation of Austin Water's successes in improving affordability for all customers. Updates to these 5-year forecast metrics have been completed and published annually.
For more information about Austin Water's affordability initiatives or to view the complete 2021 Affordability Metric Report, visit AustinWater.org.
Improving affordability is a component of Austin Water's long-term strategic business plan that uses Effective Utility Management principles to meet the challenges ahead. The utility continues to find savings through cost containment, debt management, and innovations in technology and processes. Cost savings are then passed along to customers as rate reductions, rebates, and financial assistance.