For the first time in at least a decade, the San Antonio Water System adopted a budget that does not raise its customers’ rates.

Five of the utility’s seven board members vote to approve the $909.4 million budget at the board’s November meeting Tuesday. Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Trustee Amy Hardberger were absent for the vote.

The 2021 budget would keep the average SAWS residential user’s monthly bill at $75.10. For year-to-year comparisons, SAWS assumes its average customer uses 7,092 gallons of water per month and disposes of 5,668 gallons of wastewater per month. Next year marks the first since at least 2011 when the utility has not increased its customers’ rates from one year to the next.

The board’s approval of the new budget came a month after SAWS officials released figures on the growing number of past-due customers with water service eligible for shutoff, a side effect of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting recession.

As of Oct. 30, the number had swelled to 32,273 residential customers owing a combined $18.5 million, a roughly 665 percent increase in past-due customers compared March 13, when 5,071 customers owed a combined $2.2 million.

Those accounts eligible for shutoffs aren’t distributed across the city evenly. The top five zip codes for accounts late enough to be eligible for shutoffs are on the West and Far West sides, SAWS Vice President Mary Bailey told board members.

A SAWS map shows accounts with past-due balances eligible for shutoffs are concentrated on the West and Far West sides.
A SAWS map shows accounts with past-due balances eligible for shutoffs are concentrated on the West and Far West sides. Credit: Courtesy / San Antonio Water System

Bailey also reported 1,517 nonresidential accounts eligible for shutoff – including businesses, retail, office buildings, multifamily housing, schools, and government buildings – owing a combined $3.9 million.

The budget assumes that SAWS would resume disconnecting delinquent customers in mid-2021, SAWS officials say.

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is the San Antonio Report's environment and energy reporter.