Despite higher rates, Galveston has been bringing in less water revenue, in large part because a high amount of rain, leading residents touse less.

Although this fluctuation is often part of the normal cycles, the decrease in revenue comes during a year the city already is cutting costs and tightening budgets.

Galveston has gotten 15.99 more inches of rain this fiscal year than it did last year by this time, 41.8 inches as opposed to 25.81 inches in 2018, according to National Weather Service data.

The wettest month last fiscal year was September, which brought 24.32 inches of rain to the island, according to the data.

The city is budgeting for $20.7 million in water revenues next year, according to the proposed budget. Around $20.7 million is also what the city expects to collect in 2019, but the city originally planned for $21.1 million in revenues, according to the budget.

In the 2018 fiscal year, the city collected $22.6 million in water revenues, according to the budget.

The city raised its water rates 7 percent in January.

When the island gets heavy or frequent rains, residents don’t need to use as much city-provided water to irrigate their lawns, Finance Director Mike Loftin said.

“There is also some suspicion that tourism is being affected this year by the excess amount of rainfall received,” Loftin said. “This apparent lower level of occupancy is also likely affecting water consumption by hotels and restaurants during the heavy water-use months.”

This weather effect is pretty common for municipalities, said Brandon Wade, general manager of the Gulf Coast Water Authority.

The special district sells water from the Brazos River to area municipalities, including Galveston.

“Water consumption by a municipality or water district is impacted by a number of issues, including water loss through leaking infrastructure, population fluctuations, weather and conservation and efficiency measures,” Wade said.

People should expect rates to continue increasing as water becomes more limited, Wade said.

Resident Mark Foster expects that to happen, too, he said. Foster has noticed his monthly water bill increase from about $130 to $150, he said.

“My usage has stayed the same,” Foster said.

He wouldn’t be surprised to see prices continue to rise though, he said.

The city’s water rate structure is progressive, Assistant City Manager Brandon Cook said.

“The bigger the meter and the more water used, the more one pays per unit basis,” Cook said. “However, there is a minimum base charge that gets assessed regardless of the amount of water used to maintain the entire system.”

That base amount is determined, in part, by the fixed costs.

The system has about $19.5 million in fixed costs for water rights, construction and maintenance, Loftin said.

There’s really no way to make sure costs offset revenues every year, Loftin said.

“Rates are set such that the city breaks even in a normal year, has revenue in excess of costs in a dry year and costs in excess of revenue in a wet year,” Loftin said.

Galveston, like other cities, has also been encouraging conservation, which could be contributing to declined revenues, he said.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

(9) comments

Robert Braeking

Galveston residents should return to the practice of using catch water.

Bailey Jones


Kathy Thomas

I agree!

Gary Miller

So said I.

Michael Moriarty

Is Galveston using water revenues as a "profit Center?" There is no other reasoning for the difference in the cost of a gallon of water flowing through a household consumption meter and a sprinkler. The tone of this article would seem to indicate a reliance on water revenue, but fails to disclose what happened to excess revenue in other periods. If water rates are designed to supplement city operational expenses, they would appear to be a "tax" and that would be despicable, given that water is a basic necessity of life?

City Manager

Water rates are a combination of two things (1) The Cost of the Water itself (variable) and (2) the cost of delivering said water to your home or business (fixed).

If the city sells less water, the cost per gallon (which is not how we do it but you used it) in theory would go up because you are spreading those costs over fewer gallons.

Imagine the cost of milk, gasoline (or lets dream a little) beer if it were piped straight to your home, kept secure, under pressure and clean at all times? That's where costs come in to play.

Actually fairly simple and how every water system works. Water is not a profit center but it is an enterprise fund so it must operate within what it collects.

Carlos Ponce

On "This Old House" they showed an older home (really a mansion) that had seawater piped in for toilets.

Jim Forsythe

Good idea to try and save water, but a better way is to use the water from sinks,showers and washing machines for flushing . The cost for a city to bring saltwater to every house would be a large amount for the city. Also the maintenance on a toilet would increase, such as your rim holes and other parts that would need to be cleaned more often, and may lead to replacement quicker than with fresh water. The cost at the sewage treatment plant would also increase. Sewage treatment plants are fairly heavily biological. They grow things in the sewage to break it down, but most of those things won't grow in salt water. It's already a challenge keeping toxic chemicals out of the sewage.

Another thing to consider is the cost to retrofit is much more than on new construction.

Catalina Island's water when flushed in the dark did glow a little bit because of Bio-luminescent bacteria. But they are going away from using sea water.

Wayne Holt

While obviously not cost effective at current scale, there are some amazing technologies being prototyped now, such as solar powered water distillation that is taken from humid air, something we are generously blessed with in Galveston. Or desalinization engines that use wave energy rather than fuel sources to create pure water, such as this one:

We should at least begin to think of ways to provide dependable, low-tech and low-cost ways to provide for our basic needs on this island. The strategies won't be useful immediately, but we would be far ahead of the game if we started now, and monitor developments as the technologies and cost at scale keeps improving.

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