In New York City, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) budget is funded by revenue it collects through water and sewer rates. Every spring, the NYC Water Board sets the water and sewer rates for New York City and holds a series of public hearings to receive public comment on the new rates.
This year, a call to action from SWIM and Riverkeeper prompted individuals and organizations from across the City to raise their voices and ask for a restructured water rate. SWIM and Riverkeeper asked our members and supporters to testify at the Water Board hearings this spring and submit public comments in support of a restructured water rate and an accelerated timeline of DEP’s Water Rate Study. See all the comment letters and testimonies here.
NYC’s current water rate is based on water consumption and does not account for large impervious areas that generate a lot of stormwater runoff. [See more about water rates in this fact sheet.] SWIM has been advocating to restructure this rate to account for a property’s stormwater runoff and its impact on the sewer system. See our blog post about this here. DEP will soon begin a study on rate restructuring, but the study is slated to take three years to complete. We think the timeline can be expedited and have called for a Citizens Advisory Committee to inform the study.
On June 14, 2019, the NYC Water Board met to vote on the Fiscal Year 2020 water rates, and praised the public comments and testimony they received! The Board members noted that they were impressed by the tone of the comments, saying they were “respectful” and “very eloquent”. Watch the video here.
Water Board Member Adam Freed has been a proponent of restructuring the water rate to separate out a stormwater charge, at the hearing he noted that NYC has fallen behind other stormwater infrastructure leaders, such as Washington DC and Philadelphia, in establishing a stormwater charge. He and 3 of his fellow board members made supportive comments during a 10 minute discussion dedicated to this topic. (That’s a majority of the 7-member board. No members voiced opposition.) Mr Freed called on DEP to complete the rate study within a year, calling this “an absolutely critical issue for the city.” He made a personal commitment to do anything he can to help accelerate the water rate study.
Thank you to all the SWIM members that showed up to the hearings and submitted public comments! Your voices were heard, and we’re a small victory closer to achieving equitable water rates!