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DC Water Board of Directors Boosts Customer Assistance with New Rate Structure

September 03, 2020

Acknowledging the continuing economic uncertainty affecting many customers, the DC Water Board of Directors today approved a new rate structure for the next two years that expands the way the authority helps low-income customers.

Among the changes is an increase in the discounts for impervious area, making permanent a separate assistance program on top of the current ones and partnering with the District government on a new ‘helping hand’ program to forgive past due amounts for low income customers and those negatively impacted by COVID.

“Helping customers in their time of need is the right thing to do and the only thing to do,” said Chief Executive Officer and General Manager David L. Gadis. “Like everyone else we are trying to do more with less and while the pandemic is affecting everyone, it isn’t affecting everyone the same way.”

Mr. Gadis noted that DC Water does not make a profit, and charges what it costs to deliver vital water and wastewater services and make infrastructure improvements. The rates that were approved are less than the increases originally anticipated, and programs for low income customers are being expanded to assist those in need.  

In the next year, the overall increase for the average household customer was lowered from 8.1% to just 6.6% for FY 2021 and from 6.9% to 6.7% for FY 2022. The increases are primarily to cover the cost of investing in aging infrastructure, along with the ongoing Clean Rivers initiative to restore the health of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers by reducing sewage overflows.

Board Chairman Tommy Wells said “The board weighed the very real needs to invest in capital projects and improvements to infrastructure with the ongoing pandemic and tried to balance both competing priorities. The authority must continue to provide reliable and safe water and wastewater services to the District and this budget makes it possible for us to continue doing that.”

Under the approved budget, the following changes are implemented starting with the new fiscal year on October 1:

  • Proposed annual water and sewer rate increase of 9.9% for FY 2021 and 7.8% for FY 2022
  • The shift of Clean Rivers costs from the Impervious Area Charge (CRIAC) to the sewer volumetric rate to improve equity in the funding of the $2.8 billion program is fully implemented at 37% in FY 2022 with a CRIAC of $19.52 per ERU in FY 2021 and $18.40 per ERU in FY 2022
  • The Water System Replacement Fee (WSRF) remains the same
  • Customer Metering Fee increases to cover Customer Service costs
  • PILOT Fee for FY 2021 and FY 2022 will increase by $0.03 and $0.02 per Ccf respectively and Right-of-Way Fee will remain unchanged
  • The CRIAC discount for CAP customers increases from 50% to 75% and CAP2 Program made permanent

More details about the budget and rate process, including summaries of all testimony, can be found at: https://www.dcwater.com/rates-and-metering

The biggest new change provides for certain customers who have accumulated a large debt with DC Water to have the entire balance wiped clean – up to $2,000 worth – if they otherwise qualify for financial assistance with the Authority. Customers can call DC Water at 202-354-3600 to learn more about that or any customer assistance program.

For the first time ever, DC Water convened “virtual” town hall meetings this past summer to account for social distancing guidelines in place to prevent the spread of COVID 19. However, the virtual format allowed a record number of residents to participate and more than 4,000 people across all 8 wards joined the authority in discussing rates and other issues.

Further, DC Water held a special forum just for the business community, giving hotels and restaurants and other small enterprises an opportunity to raise any questions or concerns.

Mr. Gadis announced that DC Water is also exploring additional steps to providing targeted relief to customers and promised more details later this fall.

At the beginning of the pandemic last winter, DC Water took several unprecedented steps to help its customers. First, the authority suspended all disconnections and provided flexible payment terms for any customer impacted by Covid-19. The authority also agreed to restore water service to any residential customer who did not have water at their property. DC Water has restored service for more than 220 customers who were previously disconnected for non-payment.