AP NEWS

ECUD justifies water rate increase

February 26, 2019

The Ector County Utility District envisions a robust water system for West Odessa, but the rate hike needed to finance repair and expansion is not favored by all residents.

The ECUD board of directors sent thousands of notices in January to inform residents of the water rate change and the reason behind it. ECUD President Tommy Ervin said areas experiencing low water volume and pressure influenced the utility district to take action.

The utility district services about half of the West Odessa population, about 22,000 people, and for many the full effect of the rate hike did not settle in until they received their February bill.

West Odessa senior citizens reported water rates have more than doubled for residents receiving ECUD services.

“I think it’s horrible and I can’t believe that they can do this to us,” West Odessa resident Eddie Wolf said.

Wolf is 89 years old and said his water bill has gone from about $18 to $50 for 2,000 gallons of water, which is ECUD’s new senior rate. Customers under the age of 60 pay about $75. He said he was most concerned about how residents on fixed incomes were going to work the new cost into their budget.

West Odessa resident James Couch raised the same issues as Wolf and was certain that the rate increase was unnecessary.

“Our highest demand in our overall system is at 9:45 at night,” Ervin said. “We have several areas out there where the pressure gets down to about 38 psi, pounds per square inch. The State of Texas requires us to have a minimum of 35 psi. Therefore, we are so close that much more housing or demand in certain areas … if that pressure gets down below 35 psi we’re in violation of state law and can be fined.”

Ervin said he is trying to prevent a scenario where residents do not even have enough water pressure to rinse the soap out of their hair. He said the utility district has been developing a master water plan with pump stations and elevated tanks that would correct system deficiencies and accommodate current and future residents.

“We came up with a system that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would accept and the price tag of the system is $47 million,” Ervin said.

He said making payments for the system on a $47 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board over 30 years was possible if water rates were increased.

“We’re trying to plan for the future so that 20-30 years from now everyone will have water and the bond will be paid off,” said Margaret Burton, a member of the ECUD board of directors. “The people that started ECUD thought of us, if they didn’t we’d be sitting out there just on water wells that are dry.”

Erwin said the population of Midland-Odessa is expected to increase by at least 60,000 in the next 5 years due to increased oil and gas production.

“West Odessa is growing so fast that it’s just mind boggling and for our water system to stay up its tough,” he said. “I want to see what we can do today that will affect our West Odessa water system for years to come.”