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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

May 3, 2021

News
PWSA Earns 6th Unqualified Audit Opinion

Pittsburgh, PA — The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s Board of Directors were pleased to accept the results of our 2020 Audit at their April 2021 meeting. This is the sixth consecutive unqualified independent financial audit, completed by an external auditor, showing that the Authority's financial statements are fairly and appropriately presented, with no identifiable exceptions, and in compliance with generally accepted principles of accounting. 

PWSA remains committed to following all applicable accounting standards while making critical infrastructure investments that will improve the level of service for all customers. PWSA spent $127.3 million on capital projects in 2020—an increase of $19.4 million, or approximately 18 percent, over the $107.9 million expended in 2019. PWSA spent $18.8 million on private lead line replacements in 2020. 

Our responsible approach to investment, including the use of low-interest loans and grants from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST), helps us execute our ambitious capital improvement plan while prioritizing ratepayer savings. As of the most recent round of funding we have received approximately $160.6 million from PENNVEST, saving ratepayers a total of $112.0 million since 2018. 

In 2020, the Authority closed on a funding award from PENNVEST for the purpose of financing the 2020 Small Diameter Water Main Replacement Project. This award, a $65.2 million loan with an interest rate of 1.00%, continues to fund the replacement of approximately 80,000 feet of water mains and associated connections, including the replacement of public and private lead service lines. In addition, we were recently awarded a $35.5 million low-interest PENNVEST loan and $3.0 million PENNVEST grant totaling $38.5 million to replace 25,000 feet of water service lines throughout our drinking water service area

Last year, the Authority also completed two significant bond transactions. These transactions led to the assignment of investment-grade credit status, which typically results in lower interest rates that save money in the long term. 

“The results of this audit underscore our commitment to transparency,” said Ed Barca, PWSA’s Director of Finance. “Striking a fair balance between rates and our budget remains a chief priority, and we will continue to pursue funding sources that save ratepayer dollars.” 

An audit is an official, independent examination of an entity’s accounts and financial information. An unqualified opinion is formed only when the results of this inspection leave no doubt or concerns on the part of the independent auditor as to the soundness of an entity’s financial practices.

The independent audit, performed by Maher Duessel, Certified Public Accountants, verifies that an entity follows standard accounting practices and confirms that department-wide financial processes accomplish the Authority's overall goal to use public funds responsibly.

“Our 2020 Audit reflects the dedicated public service of our Finance Department, who are working tirelessly to ensure that every ratepayer dollar is being used effectively and appropriately,” said Will Pickering, PWSA’s Chief Executive Officer.

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April 21, 2021

News
PENNVEST Funding Awarded to PWSA

Pittsburgh, PA — Today the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) was awarded a $35.5 million low-interest PENNVEST loan and $3.0 million PENNVEST grant totaling $38.5 million to replace 25,000 feet of water service lines throughout our drinking water service area.  

“We are thankful for the support of the PENNVEST Board, Governor Wolf, Mayor Peduto, and our city and state legislative leaders for recognizing the essential work we are doing to modernize our water infrastructure,” Will Pickering, PWSA’s Chief Executive Officer said. “This award will save PWSA ratepayers approximately $34.7 million in comparison to issuing a revenue bond,” Pickering stated. “PENNVEST funding has become an important funding source to advance some of our most critical water projects.” 

In addition to replacing nearly five miles of water lines, the funding will also be used to replace 59 fire hydrants and approximately 592 lead service lines – helping us to meet our goal of replacing all lead service lines by 2026. 

Water main and lead line replacements are a significant part of our capital improvement plan. Each year, we commit to replacing a dedicated amount to improve service reliability, reduce service disruptions, and improve water quality throughout our drinking water service area. We are currently completing an effort to replace 14 miles of water main in ten Pittsburgh neighborhoods and will replace an additional six miles later this year under the 2021 water main replacement project.   

PWSA has used PENNVEST funding in the past to help fund the removal of lead lines and replace aging water lines. With this most recent round of funding, we have received approximately $160.6 million saving ratepayers a total of $112.0 million since 2018. While most of the PENNVEST funding are low-interest loans to repay to the state, any grant funding does not need to be repaid and places no burden on our customers.  

“Since the majority of our funding comes from ratepayer dollars, funding through PENNVEST helps to construct necessary capital projects while reducing the onus on PWSA customers,” says Ed Barca, PWSA’s Director of Finance. “State and federal funding is necessary for keeping rates as low as possible especially during this time when the investment in our infrastructure can no longer be delayed.” 

As a publicly owned and operated water utility, every dollar we receive is reinvested back into the water systems that serve those living and working in Pittsburgh. We will continue to pursue opportunities like PENNVEST to keep rates as affordable as possible.

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April 13, 2021

News
PWSA Files Rate Request with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

Pittsburgh, PA - On April 13, 2021, PWSA filed a rate request with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) that, if approved, would provide the necessary additional funding to continue the investment that is needed to improve the safety and reliability of our water systems, advance stormwater solutions, and provide enhanced protections for our most vulnerable customers.

2020 was the most productive year on record for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA). With an investment of $122 million in capital improvements, the Authority is renewing critical water infrastructure, replacing lead service lines and aging water mains, constructing stormwater infrastructure, and rehabilitating sewer pipes that are a century old.

With this level of investment continuing for the next several years, PWSA filed a rate request with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today that, if approved, would provide the necessary additional funding to continue the investment that is needed to improve the safety and reliability of our water systems, advance stormwater solutions, and provide enhanced protections for our most vulnerable customers.

The PUC will evaluate the request, which includes a revenue increase totaling $32.2 million or 17.2% that will be phased in over two years. This proposed amount includes the addition of a new stormwater fee and new enhancements to customer assistance programs. The PUC review process can take up to nine months with the Commission considering the request in early 2022. More information about the rate filing is available at www.pgh2o.com/ourwaterfuture

“As a publicly owned and controlled utility, every dollar we receive from our customers is invested back into your water systems,” stated Will Pickering, PWSA’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our water infrastructure was built at the turn of the 20th century and has served us well. It is now time to rebuild our system for the next one hundred years so we can provide the quality water services that Pittsburgh expects and deserves.”

In consideration of the financial hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, PWSA is proposing the most minimal rate request to implement its capital improvement plan, expand operations, and maintain customer service levels. The increase will be phased in over two-years to reduce the impact on ratepayers and includes additional enhancements to our customer assistance programs. PWSA is doing everything possible to keep rates as low as possible while meeting our obligations to deliver high quality water services. 

**Will there be a stormwater fee?   **

PWSA has focused on improved stormwater management for several years and a stormwater fee, if approved, would begin to address many of the wet weather challenges experienced in Pittsburgh. It would provide a dedicated funding source to improve stormwater management, build innovative stormwater infrastructure, reduce sewer overflows, and lessen the amount of pollution entering our rivers and streams.  

The proposed stormwater fee is based on the amount of impervious surface on a property. In Pittsburgh, the average amount of impervious surface on a residential property is approximately 1,650 square feet. For the purposes of calculating the stormwater rate for all properties in Pittsburgh, we determined that 1,650 square feet of impervious surface will be equivalent to one residential unit (ERU). ERUs are accepted as the industry standard for determining a stormwater fee. If approved, the stormwater fee will be applied to all residential and non-residential properties in Pittsburgh in the following way: 

Stormwater Customer CategoriesERUMonthly Rate 2022Monthly Rate 2023
Residential Tier 1   
(>=400 to <1,015 sf).5$2.99$3.98
Residential Tier 2   
(>=1,015 to <2,710 sf)1$5.96$7.95
Residential Tier 3   
(>=2,710 sf)2$11.93$15.90
Non-residentialPer ERU$5.96$7.95

For more information about our plans for managing stormwater and the fee please visit www.pgh2ostormwater.com.

What does this mean for ratepayers if the request is approved by the PUC?
In 2022, rates are proposed to increase by $22.0 million or 11.7% and in 2023, would increase by $10.2 million or by 5.4% for water and wastewater conveyance operations and stormwater management. If approved, this request continues the investment PWSA is making in needed infrastructure improvements. 

PWSA’s typical residential customer uses approximately 3,000 gallons of water per month with a 5/8-inch meter and generates stormwater runoff from one ERU. That customer’s total bill would increase from $79.34 per month to $87.19 per month or by 9.89% in 2022, and from $87.19 to $91.05 per month or by 4.43% in 2023.

For a typical residential customer enrolled in PWSA’s Bill Discount Program using 3,000 gallons per month with a 5/8-inch meter and a reduced stormwater fee, the total bill would increase from $41.77 to $45.34 per month or by 8.54% in 2022, and from $45.34 to $47.90 per month or by 5.64% in 2023.

The current rate filing includes proposed enhancements to our customer assistance program that makes these valuable programs available to more customers. They include expanding the Winter Shutoff Moratorium to include adults 65 and older regardless of income, increasing the volumetric discount to 50% for very low-income customers enrolled in the Bill Discount Program, providing a 75% discount on the stormwater fee for all customers enrolled in the Bill Discount Program, and increasing eligibility for the Hardship Grant Program from 150% of the federal poverty level to 300%. Additional assistance opportunities for all PWSA customers, regardless of income, are also included in the rate proposal. For more information about our customer assistance programs, please visit www.pgh2o.com/cap

“PWSA recognizes the importance of balancing the needs of our customers with the improvements we must make to our water, sewer, and stormwater systems,” says Will Pickering, PWSA’s CEO. “Our proposal builds off the customer protections put in place earlier this year and continues to help make bills as affordable as possible for those who need it most,” Pickering stated. “During these challenging times, the affordability of our rates cannot be ignored. No one should have to choose between paying their water bill and other essential expenses.”
PUC Rate Setting Process and Oversight

PWSA ratepayers will have an opportunity to participate in the PUC’s review of the proposed rates. In the coming months, the PUC will hold public hearings on the proposal. PWSA will provide public testimony to justify and explain the requested rates. The PUC’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement, Pennsylvania Office of the Consumer Advocate and Small Business Advocate will also likely review and comment on the request. The PUC may elect to change the rates included in the rate filing. 

The PUC began providing oversight of our customer service, operations, and ratemaking after the Governor signed Act 65 in December 2017. We are the first municipal water and wastewater authority to be regulated by the PUC. For more information on PUC oversight and actions customers can take in response to the rate request, please visit www.pgh2o.com/customer-rights

As a publicly owned authority, every dollar we collect in rate revenue is invested back into the organization to improve drinking water, sewer, and stormwater services. We never lose sight that this is your water. We are proud to serve Pittsburgh and are dedicated to providing the water services you expect and deserve.

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