Philadelphia Water Department Rides a Wave of Rate Increases
On January 15, 2021, the Philadelphia Water Department (Department) filed Advance Notice of rate increases with the Philadelphia Water, Sewer and Stormwater Rate Board (Rate Board) and Philadelphia City Council. On February 16, 2021, the Department filed Formal Notice of the proposed changes with their Records Department. While a previous request was filed in February 2020, it was subsequently withdrawn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If the Department’s current request is approved, the proposed rate increase and related changes will be phased in and take effect over two consecutive years on September 1 of 2021 and 2022, for fiscal years 2022 and 2023, respectively.
The proposed rate increase is designed to meet a revenue shortfall and generate approximately $49 million in FY2022 and $31.5 million in FY2023. As reported by the Department in its Summary Fact Sheet, if its request is approved, the monthly bill for a residential customer using 5 hundred cubic feet (ccf) of water per month would increase by 11.6 percent on September 1, 2021 and an additional 5.3 percent on September 1, 2022.
Non-residential increases vary widely based on meter size, the amount of water consumed and the gross and impervious areas of each parcel. According to an example provided on the Board’s site, a small business customer with a 5/8-inch meter and using 6 ccf of water per month and having a 5,500 square foot lot with 4,000 square feet of impervious area will see an increase by 7.2 percent on their monthly bill on September 1, 2021 and an additional 5.7 percent on September 1, 2022.
In addition to the increase in charges mentioned above, it is important to note that the Department has NOT proposed changes to its stormwater credits applied to non-residential properties with surface discharge at a maximum of 90 percent impervious area (IA) credit and a 7 percent credit to properties with NPDES permits. Changes were made, however, to requirements for a direct reduction in the billable IA including the removal of green roofs and porous pavements.
The PWD also incorporated additional changes for properties with PWD-approved Stormwater Management Practices constructed per Chapter 6 of the Department’s regulations or those constructed with stormwater grant funds. To obtain the IA credit, the customer must demonstrate management of the first 1.5 inches of runoff.
The Rate Board will conduct a General Rate Proceeding for the next several months to review and determine appropriate rates and changes. The Rate Board will consider all relevant and useful evidence and arguments before rate increases and other changes are finalized and go into effect. Department customers and those otherwise affected by the Department’s rate increases can still participate in the General Rate Proceeding in several ways:
- Submit signed, written comments and evidence to the Board on any relevant issued either at hearings or in advance of any hearings to Water Rate Board, One Parkway, 17th Floor, 1515 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19102, Attn.: Steven Liang, or via email to WaterRateBoard@phila.gov and Liang@phila.gov.
- Present oral testimony at any public hearing. Hearings will only be held online and via phone. Public hearing dates were held in mid-March already and Technical hearing dates are anticipated to be scheduled in mid to late Spring 2021. Hearing dates and times will be posted on the Board’s website.
- Register to be a participant by contacting the Water Rate Board, One Parkway, 17th Floor, 1515 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19102, Attn: Steven Liang, or via email to WaterRateBoard@phila.gov and Liang@phila.gov. Participants may submit written information requests to the Water Department concerning relevant matters, file written briefs after the close of all hearings, and file written exceptions to the Hearing Officer’s Report.
Complete copies of Advance Filing and Formal Notice documents can be found on the Rate Board’s website. For questions or more information, please contact MGKF’s Diana Silva (484-430-2347) or MGKF Technical Consultant Michael Nines, P.E., LEED AP (484-430-2350).