KPRC 2 Investigates: Why your water bill will continue to go up

Expect yearly water rate increases from now until 2026

Water is a basic necessity. You need it to cook, clean and to stay healthy. But the rising cost of water in the City of Houston is draining some customers. KPRC 2 Investigates is asking why rates are skyrocketing and what we’re getting for the extra money we’re all paying.

Water rates will go up each year

The Houston City Council voted to increase the amount you will pay for water every year for the next five years. By April 2026 some Houstonians will be paying 78% more for the same amount of water.

“We have constituents calling all the time wondering why their water bills are so high,” said Mary Nan Huffman.

Mary Nan Huffman wasn’t on the city council last year when the rate increases passed but she’s seeing the impact now in her West Houston district.

“We’re especially seeing senior citizens hit hard that are on fixed incomes,” said Huffman.

Houston City County water bill increase.

Former Houston Public Works Director Daniel Krueger said he thinks the council should have asked more questions.

“The city hasn’t explained well why they needed to be raised as much as we did,” he said.

Krueger says it’s just budgeting 101. Public Works requested increased water rates and got them without showing exactly how the extra money will be used, which projects will be completed, and when.

“And show me where every dollar is going,” said Investigator Amy Davis.

“That’s right,” said Krueger.

“We don’t know that?” said Amy.

“We don’t know that,” Krueger said.

After the rate increases passed the 2023 city budget shows those higher water rates are expected to bring in an extra 23% in revenue. And according to the budget, the water and sewer operating fund will be sitting on more than $ 800 million ($813,944,108.00) after all of their expenses.

The City of Houston fiscal year 2023 budget shows a balance of more than $8 million dollars for the Water and Sewer Operating Fund. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Current Director of Public Works Carol Haddock says the money is needed for pending projects that they couldn’t have been put in the budget before the rate increases were passed.

“We are eating that down. And if you go back to the presentation we did last year to city council, we show how over the course of five years, we’re actually going to reduce that significantly,” said Haddock.

When is the next water rate increase for the City of Houston?

The next water rate increase is in April 2023. Council member Huffman said the council did agree that if the city gets some federal infrastructure grants it has applied for members agreed to revisit the rate increases and possibly roll them back. You can count on us to stay on top of that and let you know if Houston gets any of those federal dollars.

‘DRAINED’ KPRC 2 Investigates series: The KPRC 2 Investigates team is taking an in-depth look into the City of Houston water department, asking questions that you have sent us. You can see all of our stories here.

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.