Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Austin Water Saves Millions through State Funding for Water, Wastewater and Metering Infrastructure Overhaul



Funds will enhance resilience to extreme weather and emergency events

Austin's push to modernize and strengthen its water, wastewater and metering infrastructure received a bump, thanks to newly acquired below market interest rate loans from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB).  Austin Water secured a combined $71.1 million in TWDB funding through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, and the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT).

Austin Water has pursued low interest rate loans to keep costs for infrastructure improvements down, protect rates, and maintain affordability of water and wastewater services. This newest wave of funding locks in interest rates as low as 0.20% and saves the utility and customers millions in financing costs.

"Historically low interest rates coupled with TWDB rate discounts allowed Austin Water to save customers upwards of $13.3 million in financing costs just in this wave of funding alone," said Christina Romero, Austin Water Division Manager, Financial Services. "We are implementing long term and system-wide renovations and upgrades at a faster pace while lowering long-term financing costs."

"This funding allows us to make large strategic improvements to our infrastructure for long-term resiliency," said Shay Ralls Roalson, Assistant Director of Austin Water – Engineering Services. "These generational investments towards the modernization of our water and wastewater infrastructure and metering system will help us deliver reliable high-quality water and wastewater service for years to come."

More Reliable Reservoir Storage and Pumping Capacity
Funding from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund will go towards upgrading the North Austin Reservoir and Pump Station with a new 8-million gallon ground storage tank and pump station, replacing a reservoir that was originally built in 1912. A portion of the funding will also go toward construction of state-of-the-art electrical equipment at the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant - Low Service Pump Station, replacing equipment that was original to the plant construction. Both of these projects will improve water system reliability and resiliency and reduce maintenance costs. The $30 million, 30-year loan with an all-in interest rate of 0.28%, will save customers and the utility an estimated $7.2 million relative to traditional revenue bond financing in the municipal capital markets.

Enhanced Power Reliability at Wastewater Treatment Plants
Funding from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund will go towards improving pumping systems at Walnut Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant as well as rehabilitation of the plant's sludge thickener system. A portion of the funding will go towards replacement of the electrical substation at the South Austin Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. These projects will improve the reliability and resiliency of Austin's major wastewater treatment facilities. The $23.1 million, 30-year loan with an all-in interest rate of 0.20%, will save customers and the utility an estimated $5.7 million relative to traditional revenue bond financing in the municipal capital markets.

Real-time Data with Advanced Metering Infrastructure
Funding from the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas will go toward a complete modernization of Austin's water meter infrastructure. A city-wide initiative, known as MyATXWater, is underway to replace analog water meters with advanced digital meters to give customers more control over their water usage and the ability to closely monitor for leaks within their private system. The advanced meter infrastructure will also provide Austin Water with more real-time analytics about system-wide performance. The $18 million, 20-year loan with an all-in interest rate of 1.49%, will save customers and the utility nearly half a million dollars relative to traditional revenue bond financing in the municipal capital markets.

 

Affordability and Infrastructure Improvements

Improving affordability and infrastructure stability are components of the utility's long-term strategic business plan that uses Effective Utility Management strategies to meet the challenges ahead. Austin Water has chosen to focus on Affordability, Customer Satisfaction, Employee and Leadership Development, and Infrastructure Stability. Taken together, improvements in these target areas are helping Austin Water continue to be an industry leader and improve operations and resiliency.

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