NYC Water Board holds hearing at Newtown Creek to discuss slight increase in water rate

On May 23, the New York City Water Board approved the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed 3.35 percent water rate increase for fiscal year 2015. This marks the lowest increase in nine years and is also half of the original projected increase, according to DEP.

On Wednesday May 14, the board held the first of five public hearings at the Visitor Center at Newtown Creek. The meeting – which only about a dozen members of the public attended — provided a forum for those who wished to voice their opinions.

“We use [the hearing] as an annual report,” said Emily Lloyd, DEP commissioner, speaking to the nearly empty room. “We go out once a year and meet in every borough to report on what money is being spent on.

“When we were doing the rate this time last year and for purposes of talking to the potential bond buyers, they ask us to project what the rate will be in following years and we thought increase would be 7.8 percent so we were able to bring that down to 3.35 percent,” said Lloyd.

Lloyd explained that the lower increase was the product of many circumstances, such as the new administration’s decision to return an additional 10 percent of the rental payment to the system this year. Another reason was upgraded technology.

“We’re coming close to completing the installation of automated meter reading,” she said. “Homeowners and building owners are seeing how that water is being used on a day to day basis which means we don’t have estimated readings anymore and they are much more accurate. We also benefited this year from a low interest rate.”

In addition, according to Lloyd, the Water Board was able to negotiate with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation to do various things to save money. “We’re always trying to make a case for green infrastructure,” she said. “It holds and contains storm water rather than gray infrastructure which puts it into pipes and tanks and has to pump it out which is expensive and uses lots of energy.”

Although some residents have expressed disappointment that there is any increase, Lloyd contended that an effort is being made to minimize costs. “We would always love to announce that there wouldn’t be any increase this year. So when we have an increase, which has been quite a while, we like to put it in perspective because we do work hard to keep the increase as small as possible,” she explained.

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