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The Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority

Issuer Type: Water/Sewer

Revenue

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On behalf of the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, I would like to welcome you to our new investor relations website. We appreciate your interest and investment in bonds issued by the Authority, as it allows us to make critical investments in water and sewer infrastructure throughout Pittsburgh. We are committed to maintaining our strong bond ratings, and we are also committed to being as transparent as possible with the investor community and public at large.

I hope you find this website useful as you seek to better understand the credit fundamentals of the Authority. Please do not hesitate to contact our office with suggestions for how we can improve. Thanks again for your interest in our bond program.

Edward Barca, Director of Finance

News & Highlights

October 6, 2020

Press Release
PWSA Receives Award for Community Lead Response Program

Pittsburgh, PA - The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) was awarded Special Project of the Year at today’s March of Dimes Pittsburgh Transportation, Building & Construction Award Ceremony. The March of Dimes Awards highlights local leaders and innovative projects in the labor and industry arena. Presented virtually, the Special Project of the Year award recognized our Community Lead Response Program.

The program has become a model for other U.S. cities by achieving several initiatives such as:

  • Creating a comprehensive community engagement strategy
  • Replacing almost 8,000 public and over 5,000 private lead service lines over the past four years
  • Providing, on average, over 10,000 free lead testing kits and 4,000 free water filter pitchers on an annual basis

“I am honored to accept the Special Project of the Year award for our Community Lead Response Program”, said Executive Director Will Pickering. “The project title is fitting as this has been a community-led effort from our employees, elected officials, consultants, contractors, and customers. Thank you to the March of Dimes Event Leadership for recognizing our commitment to continue to provide safe drinking water for moms and babies."

The recognition comes at a pivotal time in the lead program as we add a new lead service line reimbursement program. The reimbursement program provides homeowners the opportunity to work with a private plumber and receive reimbursement on a tiered scale. The program will increase access to funding for residents not within our planned work areas. PWSA will continue to proactively replace lead lines as we replace aging water infrastructure as part of our capital improvements. See our October 1st press release for more information on how to participate in the reimbursement program.  

March of Dimes is an organization that promotes the health and welfare of moms and babies through advocacy, education, and research. Learn more about the March of Dimes mission on their website at https://www.marchofdimes.org.

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October 1, 2020

Press Release
PWSA Announces Rate Settlement with Public Utility Commission

Pittsburgh, PA – After input from the community and negotiations with various advocates and interested stakeholders, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) has filed with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) a proposed settlement regarding its 2021 water and wastewater rate proposal, which includes additional programs intended to assist customers. The settlement is still to be reviewed by the presiding PUC administrative law judges as well as the full Commission with a final decision expected on or before January 14, 2021. 

This settlement includes a 5.7% total increase in base rates for water and wastewater charges, and 5% distribution system improvement charges (DSIC) for both water and sewer. This will amount to a $6.85 increase for the average residential customer using 3,000 gallons of water. If the settlement is approved, customers enrolled in our Bill Discount Program using up to 5,000 gallons of water per month would see a reduction in their total monthly bill compared to existing rates.

We understand that any rate increase we propose must be paired with a comprehensive customer assistance program to make bills as affordable as possible and the settlement proposes a number of customer benefits and improvements to assist customers. Among other improvements, our Bill Discount Program would cover 100% of fixed charges for eligible customers and include a 20% reduction on the cost of water used for some eligible customers. The threshold for our Winter Shutoff Moratorium will increase from 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 300%. In addition to these expansions, PWSA agreed to launch new community programs, like our PGH2O Cares Team, which will work with the community to promote good water conservation practices and help eligible customers enroll in our assistance programs. 

In early July, the PUC hosted six virtual public hearings to receive comment from the public on PWSA’s proposed rates. These comments were considered by PWSA and various stakeholders in crafting the settlement, which included the Commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, the Office of Consumer Advocate, the Small Business Advocate and Pittsburgh United.  

After incorporating any changes made by the PUC, the settlement will go into effect on or after January 14, 2021. The rate increase will result in a $14,150,000 increase in water revenue and a $4,850,000 increase in wastewater revenue. 

In the past, investment in infrastructure was not prioritized and rates did not indicate the real needs of an aging system. PWSA’s leadership team and its workers have begun a new chapter at PWSA, taking stewardship seriously. These rates will be used towards improving our drinking water treatment and distribution system, rebuilding aging sewer lines, and designing innovative stormwater mitigation projects to reduce pollution and sewer overflows. In addition to large capital improvement projects, this increase will allow for thousands of valve maintenance projects, up to 10,000 water meter replacements, and a comprehensive water main flushing program that will improve water quality for our distribution system. 

“We are making progress on reversing decades of neglect in our life essential water systems. This rate settlement is a thoughtful compromise between investing in our aging infrastructure while also addressing affordability concerns for our lower income customers,” said Executive Director Will Pickering. “Every dollar paid by our customers will be used to ensure we continue to provide high quality and reliable drinking water and sewer services.”

The settlement does not include PWSA’s request for a multi-year rate increase. Now that it has been filed, both the presiding administrative law judges and the full Commission will consider the proposed resolution of PWSA’s rate increase request before making a final determination. 

PWSA’s rate increase is carefully allocated to increase revenue where it is needed most. The typical residential customer using 3,000 gallons of water per month currently pays $72.49 per month under the existing rates. When the rate settlement goes into effect in early 2021, this is expected to increase to $79.34 or by $6.85 per month.

The typical residential customer enrolled in our Bill Discount Program using 3,000 gallons of water per month currently pays $45.83 per month under the existing rates. If the rate settlement is approved, this would change to $41.77 or reduce their bill by $4.06.

What is a DSIC?

Part of the settlement rate increase would come from a DSIC. A DSIC, or distribution system improvement charge, is a charge that is inclusive to the rate increase, which means it is part of the overall increase in rates. It will permit PWSA to charge 5% of its total water revenues and 5% of its total wastewater revenues for use on specific projects allocated for water and sewer improvements. These projects will have a direct benefit to customers and includes improvements such as water main and lead service line replacements and sewer rehabilitation.

If PWSA finds that it is not spending all funds collected from the DSIC charge, the charge can be reduced throughout the year to reflect the needed investment. If there is an excess revenue associated with the DSIC charge at the end of the year, PWSA will refund customers. This flexibility in charges means PWSA can monitor its spending and only charge its customers what is needed.

Expanding our Customer Assistance Program

We understand that rate increases can be a financial burden for some customers, which is why our rate increase was paired with a major expansion of our Customer Assistance Programs. As part of the settlement, the following programs will be made available to those customers who qualify:

  • Raise the Bill Discount from 75% to 100% of monthly fixed base charges for eligible customers up to 150% of Federal Poverty Level (FPL).
  • Provide an additional 20% Bill Discount of the volumetric charge for all usage of eligible customers with income at or below 50% of Federal Poverty Level.
  • Waive the Bill Discount Program recertification requirement in 2021.
  • Increase the income eligibility for the Winter Shut Off Moratorium from 250% of FPL to up to 300% of FPL.
  • Waive reconnection fees in 2021.
  • Waive the Hardship Grant Program sincere effort of payment requirement in 2021.
  • Implement a Pilot Arrearage Forgiveness Program where eligible customers will have their arrears, or overdue balances, forgiven in $15 increments for every installment payment on an active payment plan.
  • Creation of the PGH2O Cares Team that will work with community groups to provide water conservation education targeted to low-income customers with high consumption.
  • Option for all customers to donate to Dollar Energy Fund to fund PWSA’s Hardship Grant Program.

If you or someone you know may qualify for any of our income assistance programs, they should call Dollar Energy Fund at 866-762-2348 to begin the process.

“We greatly appreciate the input and negotiation with the parties that occurred over the summer to bring us to the proposed settlement,” said PWSA Board Chair Paul Leger. “Investment in these water and wastewater systems is greatly needed, and we will deliver on our improvement programs with efficiency and equity as our driving forces.”

For more information on PWSA’s roadmap for renewal, visit https://www.pgh2o.com/residential-commercial-customers/rates/our-water-future.

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September 29, 2020

Press Release
The Microfiltration Plant is Back in Service

Pittsburgh, PA - On Monday, September 14th, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority opened the main valve of the Microfiltration Plant in Highland Park, restarting the flow of treated water into the PWSA water supply system. The plant is fully operational – distributing approximately 2.5 million gallons of water per day to the approximately 250,000 residents served by the open Highland I Reservoir.

With the MFP back in service, PWSA has a redundant water system and can spread the demand for water across the entire water distribution network. This enhances PWSA’s ability to reliably provide high quality water to customers.

The plant treats water from this historic open reservoir, which provides drinking water to customers living in Pittsburgh’s eastern neighborhoods, the Hill District, and parts of Oakland. This accounts for more than half of PWSA’s drinking water customers. It also supplies water to secondary storage facilities including the Garfield Tank, Herron Hill Tank and Reservoir, Bedford Tanks, and Lincoln Tank.

The MFP was taken out of service in 2017 to meet stricter state water quality standards. Over the past three years, PWSA has made the needed changes to improve treatment methods, rehabilitate the microfiltration system, and provide greater security around the Highland I Reservoir.

The Microfiltration Plant provides the necessary retreatment of water leaving the uncovered Highland I Reservoir before it is distributed to homes. Because the water goes to an open reservoir, it is no longer considered potable water and must be treated again before reentering distribution.

This project included adding ultraviolet (UV) disinfection technology to the treatment process. UV disinfection is one of the most effective ways to treat water – when exposed to these powerful light-rays, it rapidly and effectively kills micro-organisms such as bacteria, pathogens, and protozoa that may have come in contact with the water. This second layer of treatment, in addition to membrane filtration, ensures the safety, quality, and reliability of our water after it leaves the open Highland I Reservoir.

The total capital cost of all the direct and indirect improvements to support the restoration of the MFP Facility is approximately $14.5 million. Over the next several years, PWSA will invest approximately $312 million for other large system improvements.

“Reopening this unique and state-of-the-art treatment plant allows us to focus on other previously-deferred critical projects,” stated Will Pickering, PWSA Executive Director. “We appreciate our customers’ patience as our team of engineering, construction, and operations experts continues to aggressively modernize our water system.”

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