San Antonio Water System customers will see the impact of the utility’s new rate structure for the first time this month, which officials have said could lower bills for more than 80% of residents.
The drop won’t be huge — the average decrease will be about 8%, SAWS officials estimate. That would knock almost $5 off an average bill of $60.
Commercial ratepayers, on the other hand, will see their rates go up by an average of 7%.
The new structure, which SAWS’ board of trustees approved in November, charges heavier water users more “to send price signals to customers” to encourage conservation, said Mary Bailey, SAWS’ vice president of customer experience.
The new structure collapsed eight water-use tiers down to five, with customers paying progressively higher rates in each tier. Fixed charges will also drop — for most residential customers by a couple of bucks — depending on customer location and meter size.
Residential customers within city limits who used to pay $0.74 per 1,000 gallons for the first 2,992 gallons they used and $1.29 per 1,000 gallons for the next 1,497 gallons they used will now pay $0.907 per 1,000 gallons for their first 4,000 gallons.
Those within city limits who use more than 20,000 gallons per month will now pay $5.669 per 1,000 gallons, up from $4.80 per 1,000 gallons.
Roughly half of all residential customers use less than 5,000 gallons of water per month. Only about 3% of the utility’s customers use 20,000 gallons per month or more, Bailey said.
The utility also collapsed its wastewater tiers and reduced those fixed costs from $14.53 to $10 per month.
(A) Current Bill Summary
This is a snapshot of your bill, which is broken down more thoroughly on the next page.
(B) Account number
A personalized number that SAWS associates with your account.
(C) Cycle and route
This is information used by SAWS meter readers. SAWS has 20 billing cycles, billing every business day per month. It bills different areas of town each day, so a customer’s cycle will tell them which business day of the month they can expect to have their meter read. If you have a new smart meter, this number will have an “a” after it.
(D) Edwards Aquifer Water Level
This shows the current level of the Edwards Aquifer, which makes up just over half of the region’s drinking water.
(E) Your Water Use in Gallons
This shows a customer’s water use, broken down by month, over the past year. Customers can compare their current month to the same month of the previous year.
(F) Personalized Message
Spells out a customer’s use compared to the same month the previous year, their average use and this month’s comparison to the average.
(G) Current Bill Calculation
This page details the calculations for all charges.
(H) Service Dates
Billing cycle dates. In this case, the meter was last read on Dec. 16 and was most recently read on Jan. 17.
(I) Residential/ICL Service Account
A personalized number SAWS associates with your account.
(J) Domestic Water Service Charge
This charge covers SAWS’ infrastructure costs.
- This line states the size of the pipe connected to the meter (SAWS calls it the “meter size”) which dictates the amount of this charge. The majority of residential customers have five-eighths inch meters. Under the new structure, those residents who use less than 4,000 gallons a month will pay a fixed fee of $9, while those who use more will pay $11.
- This line multiplies gallons used by the cost of the first 4,000 gallons. Under the new rate structure, the first 4,000 gallons cost $0.907 per 1,000 gallons. That multiplies to $3.63 for this customer.
- Because this customer used more than 4,000 gallons, the additional gallons are multiplied by $1.678 per 1,000 gallons. For this customer, that is an additional $3.33, making their total domestic water service charge $17.96.
(K) Domestic Water Supply Fee
Covers the cost of SAWS’ non-Edwards Aquifer water supplies.
- This line multiplies gallons used by the cost of the first 4,000 gallons. Under the new rate structure, the first 4,000 gallons are $1.6310 per 1,000 gallons. That multiplies to $6.52 for this customer.
- Because this customer used more than 4,000 gallons, the additional gallons are multiplied by $3.0180 per 1,000 gallons. For this customer, that is an additional $5.99, making their total domestic water service charge $12.51.
(L) Edwards Aquifer Authority Fee
This covers the cost of SAWS’ Edwards Aquifer water supply and goes straight to the Edwards Aquifer Authority. All gallons used are multiplied by a fee of $0.2992 per 1,000 gallons. For this customer, that equates to $1.79.
(M) Stormwater fee
A city-imposed fee that covers the cost of stormwater infrastructure. Because the square footage of your property affects how much runoff goes into the streets and drains, property size determines the fee.
(N) Sewer Service Charge
Covers the cost of sewage infrastructure and wastewater use. Because SAWS doesn’t use sewer water meters, this charge is based on the customers’ winter water use average.
Customers are alerted which three months their water use will be calculated via email, pamphlets and other outreach methods. SAWS advises customers to turn irrigation systems off and conserve water during this period.
- For this customer, the winter average came out to 5,237 gallons per month.
- This is the fixed wastewater charge, based on meter size. For customers with a five-eighths-inch meter, that is $10 per month.
- Then the customer’s monthly average is multiplied by $2.539 per 1,000 gallons for the first 4,000 gallons, which equates to $10.16 for this customer.
- Gallons in excess of 4,000 are multiplied by $4.4440 per 1,000 gallons. For this customer that is $5.50. In total, this customer’s wastewater charges and fees add up to $25.66.
(O) State-imposed TCEQ Fee
Like the EAA fee, this is a pass-through fee to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which is charged with protecting the state’s natural resources.
(P) Uplift Assistance
This is a city-approved fee that helps fund utility assistance for SAWS customers at or below the federal poverty level.
- Water use for the month is multiplied by $0.1590 per 1,000 gallons, which for this customer is $0.95
- Wastewater use is multiplied by $0.1610 per 1,000 gallons, which for this customer is $0.84 Together they total $1.79.
(Q) Your Meter Reading
This number shows how much water a customer has used, calculated in 100 cubic feet or “CCF,” which is equivalent to 748 gallons.
SAWS subtracts the current number from the previous month’s CCF reading. For this customer, it was 152 CCF. This leaves 8 CCF, the amount used in this billing cycle. Multiplying by 748 determines how many gallons the customer used: in this case, 5,985 gallons.
Smart meters, which SAWS is installing now and expects to be complete by 2026 (roughly 40,000 smart meters have already been installed), will measure in gallons. Customers with a smart meter will see the letter “a” at the end of the numbers.
Analog meters also don’t record a partial CCF — it rounds down to the nearest whole CCF and then catches that “missed” portion on the next month’s bill. This means if a resident used less than 1 CCF (fewer than 748 gallons), their meter may read the same as it did the previous month, and the customer will only pay fixed service charges on that month’s bill.
Still have questions about your bill? Leave us a comment below, and we’ll do our best to get you an answer.