Blue Mound Residents Ticked Over Water Rates

From the Texas Tribune:

Minnie Wengert does not have a washing machine or a dishwasher. The 94-year-old conserves water by hand-washing dishes, using her shower sparingly and not watering the lawn. Despite these efforts, she says, her monthly water bill averages about $125 for 5,000 gallons.

“I have had to cut back on everything just to pay for that water bill,” Wengert said.

In this small North Texas town, the water infrastructure and billing are owned by Monarch Utilities, a private corporation. Residents say this privatized structure, which is duplicated in a number of other rural communities around Texas, results in painful rate hikes. Monarch and other private water companies say their rates reflect the high costs of providing water to far-flung areas. The Legislature is weighing changes to make it easier for communities to challenge rate increases.

Monarch officials say they’ve raised rates only twice since 2005, but those hikes have driven prices up 62 percent. State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, recently filed House Bill 1160, which would make it easier for communities like the northwest Tarrant County community of Blue Mound to own the rights to run its own water system. The bill would aid towns with less than 2,500 residents whose water bills are 50 percent higher than neighboring towns.

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