Agua SUD to hold public hearings on rate increases

PALMVIEW — Residents will soon have the opportunity to address officials with the Agua Special Utility District about proposed water rate increases.

The Agua SUD Board of Directors scheduled public hearings regarding the water rates to be held before their next three monthly meetings, which are currently set for Jan. 14, Feb. 4, and March 4.

The proposal would raise water and sewer rates, and set the latter for when Palmview’s sewer system is completed and online.

For the current services, the rates would be implemented in April or May if approved by the board, according to General Manager Jose E. “Eddie” Saenz.

An audit, according to Saenz, found that billing only accounted for 1.6 billion gallons of water of the 2 billion gallons that Agua SUD treated.

“That in itself is a 20-percent difference,” Saenz said. “So hopefully we can close that gap.”

New “smart” water meters, which are meant to track water usage more accurately, should help.

“We’ve already seen an increase,” Saenz said. “We did some tests on some of the meters that have already been exchanged and compared them to last year and some of those accounts, and according to our finance department, we’re getting anywhere around 15 percent increase in what our readings are.”

Those new meters have also affected their personnel, going from eight meter readers to four because of the meters’ effectiveness, according to Saenz.

“They basically run on their own so the only thing is that we’re going to have our staff here reading the meters because they’re automatically brought into our software system versus having to go out there and read them,” he said. “So aside from the number of personnel that we’re saving to do that, we’re also saving on gas because they’re not going out there and having to read those meters as well.”

Saenz said there were many factors to consider when determining how waters rates would be affected in the future

“Our water rate is going to be based on what we’re collecting versus what we’re treating and what it’s costing,” he said, adding that cost of future maintenance or development projects would also be taken into account.

“So if we can keep that at the same,” he said, “hopefully we won’t have to increase them as much.”