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PWSA agrees to rate increase that will push average monthly bill to $100

Barry King, (left) the director of engineering and construction for PWSA, talks to Pennsylvania environmental regulators at one of PWSA's Highland Park reservoirs.
Oliver Morrison
90.5 WESA
Barry King, (left) the director of engineering and construction for PWSA, talks to Pennsylvania environmental regulators at one of PWSA's Highland Park reservoirs.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has come to an agreement on a new rate increase that will push customers’ average monthly bill up to about $100 for the first time, according to a Tuesday press release.

The increase is lower than PWSA initially asked for and only covers 2024. Initially, PWSA had asked the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for a roughly 60% rate increase over a three-year period. But through negotiations with community groups who objected, PWSA lowered the total size of its requested rate increase to about 16% for next year alone.

The average bill for a customer who uses 3,000 gallons of water a month is currently $86. If approved, the average bill next year will be about $100.

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As part of its agreement, PWSA has also offered to increase the breadth and generosity of its low-income assistance programs.

“We’re pleased to propose a Settlement to the PUC that balances enhancing our customer bill assistance programs while continuing to advance our essential infrastructure upgrades,” said PWSA’s CEO Will Pickering. “With these additional resources, we’re confident that we can deliver on our commitment to provide a modern, reliable water system that will serve current and future generations of Pittsburghers.”

Under the new plan, residents who earn 200% of the poverty level or less would be eligible for discounts. Right now the assistance level is set at 150%.

Eligible residents would receive a 60% discount on every 1,000 gallons of water they consume. Right now the discount is 50%.

And customers who fall behind on their water bill and begin to make payments would receive an additional $40 credit on every bill to help them catch up. Right now the credit is $30. These customers may also be eligible for up to two, $450 hardship grants, one for water and one for sewage. The previous hardship grant was $300 and customers could only receive one.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority provides drinking water, sewage conveyance and stormwater collection to most of its customers. But some customers in the South Hills pay a different company for drinking water.

Customer bills will rise by even more next year because the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority's rates are set to go up 7%. The average customer currently pays about $38 a month to ALCOSAN to have their sewage pumped and processed at its treatment plan. Customers pay for ALCOSAN's services on their PWSA bill.

As part of its agreement, PWSA has proposed creating a separate line item on bills that shows how much customers are paying to service loans that it's using to make generational repairs to its drinking water infrastructure. PWSA has led the state of Pennsylvania with the amount of money it has received in low interest loans from the state's PENNVEST program. The hundreds of millions of dollars in public loans decrease PWSA's borrowing costs.

If the new PWSA rate agreement is approved by the PUC, it would go into effect in mid-February.

Oliver Morrison is a general assignment reporter at WESA. He previously covered education, environment and health for PublicSource in Pittsburgh and, before that, breaking news and weekend features for the Wichita Eagle in Kansas.