To serve you better, we've assembled a list of our customers' most frequently asked questions. If you don't find your answer here, feel free to contact us.
What is the PUA?
The West Travis County Public Utility Agency (PUA) is a non-profit, public utility agency that serves western Travis and northern Hays Counties. Services are provided for roughly 7,700 retail water customers, 2,500 retail wastewater customers, 13 wholesale water customers, and two wholesale wastewater customers. Currently the Agency provides water and sewer service to an estimated population of 45,000 persons.
When was the PUA formed?
The PUA was formed in 2012 through concurrent ordinance of Hays County, the City of Bee Cave and West Travis County Municipal Utility District No. 5, and is governed by Chapter 572 of the Texas Local Government Code. The PUA purchased its water and wastewater system in 2012 from the LCRA for $165M. Bonds were sold in 2012, 2013, 2015 to make installment payments for the purchase. The final installment payment of $15M will be made in 2019.
Who regulates the PUA?
The PUA is regulated by its 5-member Board of Directors. Two representatives are from the City of Bee Cave, one from WTC MUD 5, and two from Hays County. All policies, procedures, budgets and rates are set by the Board, and managed day to day by the General Manager and PUA staff. Policies, rates, and fees are outlined in the PUA’s Tariff, which is posted on the PUA web site. Annual budgets are also posted on the PUA web site. The PUA is also regulated for water and wastewater environmental compliance by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
When are Board meetings held?
The PUA Board of Directors meet the third Thursday of each month at 10:00 a.m. at Bee Cave City Hall. There is always an Agenda item for public comment and everyone is welcome to attend.
How are water and wastewater rates developed?
In rate design, a cost of service study is performed using industry standard methods to equitably allocate the costs of the utility across all customer classes. Revenue requirements are then determined to cover those costs and final rates are calculated to ensure adequate end of year cash balances for the utility.
Costs include debt service, operation and maintenance costs, and capital costs associated with growth and maintaining infrastructure for serviceability and environmental compliance. Compliance with environmental regulations is a significant and ever-increasing expense associated with running the utility.
Debt service is allocated to pay for purchase of the LCRA system and capital improvements.
On the wastewater side, rates are set to cover the higher operating costs associated with these operations. This includes operating and maintaining two wastewater plants and complying with TCEQ TLAP and 210 regulations for land applying wastewater effluent. Since the PUA is in an environmentally sensitive area, the PUA cannot discharge wastewater from treatment plants directly into Little Barton Creek due to the Endangered Species Act and other restrictions. Rather, the PUA has to perform additional treatment of the wastewater through filtration and chlorine addition, and pump this effluent to large holding ponds for storage and subsequent land application at TLAP golf courses and 210 HOA common areas. We also spend $1M a year disposing of wastewater sludge and have to incur significant costs controlling odors due to proximity of our plants to residential areas and the characteristics of our effluent.
We have a 10-year capital improvement program to build water and wastewater infrastructure for growth and upgrade and maintain our system. The cost is in the millions over this 10-year period.
How do the PUA’s water rates compare to surrounding utilities?
The PUA’s water rates are comparable to the City of Austin at 10,000 gallons a month, which is typical consumption for a residence with no irrigation usage. The City of Austin is higher at 20,000 gallons and 30,000 gallons. These monthly water bill comparison calculations are shown on the PUA web site, under Recent News.
The PUA does not have taxing authority and has to recover all of its costs through rates, unlike other surrounding utilities who subsidize their rates with property taxes. Therefore, when taking this information into consideration, PUA rates are comparable. For further information, we encourage customers to review the presentation located on our web site, under Recent News.
How do I apply for service?
Applications for Standard and Non-Standard Service are on our web site, under Forms and Reports. To apply for service, download, print, complete and mail or hand deliver the forms to Customer Service at the office address shown on the PUA web site. All fees outlines in the PUA Tariff need to be included with the application to facilitate processing.
Are Customer Deposits refundable?
After termination of service, the PUA will promptly refund the difference between Customer deposits and any outstanding account balances owed.
Can I change the due date on my bill?
The PUA bills four different rate districts throughout the month and we are not able to change the billing due date for individual customers.
Does the PUA read meters every month?
Yes. PUA staff reads each meter every month.
Why are my water bills so high?
The PUA is a non-profit organization and rates are developed to recover the cost of our service only, and meet Board requirements for minimum cash balances and debt service coverage. Nearly 100% of our “high” water bill complaints are related to irrigation systems including programming, operational issues (e.g., valves not operating properly) and leaks. The WTCPUA (PUA) is delivering potable water that meets the requirements of the Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA) for under a penny ($.01) a gallon, which is a very good value since these requirements are very stringent and require significant operating, capital and debt financing costs to achieve. 53% of our operating costs are debt service related to acquisition of the system from the LCRA and capital improvement costs for system serviceability and growth.
Further, our water meters are the sole basis of measuring consumption for billing purposes, and do not spin unless water passes through them. Our meters test accurate 99% of the time. Our billing system accurately calculates bills based on our rate Tariff and consumption data obtained from the meter.
Since the PUA is delivering SWDA Standards water to customer meters at less than $0.01 a gallon, “High” water bills are caused by voluminous consumption. See tips in “How can I lower my water bills?” below to facilitate reduction in water consumption and costs.
Why do I have a previous balance when I know I sent in my payment?
We may have received it after the due date or we may not have received it at all. Call our office and we will help you solve the problem.
How can I lower my water bills?
- Have your irrigation system checked by a professional including valves, sprinkler heads, and controller programming to ensure the system is watering in accordance with your desired time frames. Also, it is recommended that controller programming be reviewed after power outages since these systems may reset to factory default schedules.
- Make sure that toilets are not running or that any other leaks are not present. Leaks are evident on the premises if all water is shut off and the meter continues to spin.
- Make sure no unauthorized water use is occurring on your property.
- Manually read your meter daily and revise water usage as appropriate.
- If you have an AMR meter, we can provide data logs of usage up to 15-minute increments to assist with consumption management. There is a $50 charge for these data logs.
What if I have a leak which resulted in my water bill being higher than average?
The PUA has a leak adjustment policy for leaks on service lines only. The service line extends from the meter to the premises. Leaks within the premises and on irrigation systems are not covered by this policy. Application for leak adjustment is on the PUA web site, under Forms and Reports.
Why are my wastewater bills so high?
Wastewater rates are based on cost of service studies (See “How are water and wastewater rates developed?”) to cover the higher operating costs associated with these operations. This includes operating and maintaining two wastewater plants and complying with TCEQ TLAP and 210 regulations for land applying wastewater effluent. Since the PUA is in an environmentally sensitive area, we cannot discharge wastewater from treatment plants directly into Little Barton Creek due to the Endangered Species Act and other restrictions. Rather, we have to perform additional treatment of the wastewater through filtration and chlorine addition, and pump this effluent to large holding ponds for storage and subsequent land application at TLAP golf courses and 210 HOA common areas. We also spend $1m a year disposing of wastewater sludge and have to incur significant costs controlling odors due to proximity of our plants to residential areas and the characteristics of our effluent.
How can I lower my wastewater bills?
For residential customers, monthly bills are based on the winter-quarter average of December, January and February usage combined with the monthly base fee. So, reducing consumption in these months can lower your wastewater bill. For commercial customers, wastewater bills are based on actual monthly water consumption and the monthly base fee. See tips in “How can I lower my water bills” to facilitate reduction of wastewater bills.
Why do I have to pay a base fee even though I use no water?
All water utilities have base fees which cover fixed costs, and volumetric rates which cover operating costs. Base fees are billed regardless of the amount of water consumed. PUA base fees cover principal and interest payments on debt. Debt is issued to fund the purchase of the system from LCRA and our capital improvement program (CIP), which provides for future growth of the system. Volumetric rates cover such costs as electricity, chemicals, maintenance, and personnel. The PUA is required to meet operating cash reserve requirements and debt service coverage per Board policy and Bond covenants, respectively.
How does the PUA regulate water pressure within its system?
The PUA through its water plant high service pumps, pump stations, storage tanks, and pressure reducing valves maintains system pressures within industry standard guidelines. Diurnal pressures will fluctuate based on time of day demands on the system.
Do I need a pressure reducing valve on my side of the meter to regulate pressure on my property?
Due to the hilly nature of our system and diurnal pressure fluctuations, the PUA recommends that customers install and maintain pressure reducing valves on their side of the meter.
I have observed low pressure, high pressure or pressure fluctuations in my home. What should I do?
First, we recommend that the customer’s pressure reducing valve be inspected and determined that it is in proper working order. If the customer pressure reducing valve is functioning correctly or if there is no pressure reducing valve, contact customer service so a work order can be scheduled to check pressures at the residence hose bib and nearest fire hydrant.
How do I know that my water is safe to drink?
The PUA complies with the requirements of the US EPA Safe Water Drinking Act, and TCEQ drinking water regulations. Ongoing compliance is demonstrated through our annual Consumer Confidence Report, which is mailed to all customers in the month of July. For details on SWDA requirements, please visit the US EPA web site.
What if I am concerned about the taste, color or odor of my water in my residence or building?
Please contact Customer Service so a work order can be issued and investigation conducted. The PUA can have samples taken on an as needed basis for laboratory analyses.
What is the difference between Standard Service and Non-Standard Service?
Standard service is where a PUA service line from the main to the meter box and meter box has been installed, and only a meter needs to be set to establish service. Non-Standard Service is where infrastructure needs to be installed beyond just setting a meter to establish service.
What are living unit equivalents (LUEs?)
One living unit equivalent (LUE) is equal to water demand required to service one residential dwelling, and is comparable to a maximum system demand of 924 gallons per day. LUEs are used to estimate water demand for Non-Standard Service applications, calculation of application fees, engineering fees, legal review fees, reservation fees, impact fees, and other fees in the PUA Tariff.
How do I determine the number of LUEs for my new service application?
LUE conversions for the type of residential or commercial use are shown in Section 3.03 of the PUA’s Tariff, “New Connection Fees and Terms and Conditions of Service.”
What are Reservation Fees?
Per PUA Tariff Section 3.04 and Appendix C, Reservation Fees are charged for customers who enter into Non-Standard Service Agreements to reserve water or wastewater capacity in the PUA’s system. After issuance of a Service Availability Letter, there is a six-month grace period before the first reservation fees are due. Reservation Fee payments are due annually for any unused LUEs. Reservation fees cease being paid when meters are set and customers pay Impact Fees for each LUE.
What are Impact Fees?
Chapter 395 of the Texas Local Government Code allows utilities to charge Impact Fees to recover costs associated with growth demands in the utility’s system. Impact Fee studies are conducted every five years and 10-year capital improvement program (CIP) prepared to facilitate growth. The total cost of the CIP over a 10-year period is divided by the estimated growth in LUEs to determine Impact Fees per LUE. The CIP is reviewed every 5-years and updated as appropriate. Impact Fees are listed in Appendix C of the PUA Tariff.
Where can I obtain terms and conditions for PUA water and wastewater service?
Terms and conditions for water and wastewater service are outlined in the PUA’s Tariff, which is displayed on the PUA web site.
What is the Memorandum of Understanding? Do I have to comply with this requirement for new service?
On May 24, 2000, the LCRA executed an MOU with USFWS agreeing to provide for water quality measures associated with new water service construction. The PUA, as the successor to the LCRA, has adopted Service and Development Policies to ensure compliance with the MOU. All Applicants for Non-Standard Service must comply with PUA Service and Development Policies related to water quality, which are displayed on the PUA web site, under Forms and Reports.
What are the requirements during a Boil Water Notice?
To ensure destruction of all harmful bacteria and other microbes, water for drinking, cooking, and ice making should be brought to a vigorous rolling boil for two minutes then cooled prior to use for drinking water or consumption purposes.
In lieu of boiling, all customers, individuals, or employees may purchase bottled water or obtain water from some other suitable source for drinking water or human consumption purposes.
Once the Boil Water Advisory in no longer required, the WTCPUA will issue a notice to customers, individuals, or employees that rescinds the Advisory.
If I have a water filtration device, is the water safe to drink or cook with?
No. Water will need to be boiled for two minutes and cooled prior to use for drinking water or human consumption purposes. It is recommended that you change the filter after a Boil Water Advisory has been rescinded.
Can I brush my teeth with tap water?
No. Water will need to be boiled for two minutes and cooled prior to brushing teeth. Bottled water may be used as a substitute.
Can I drink coffee made with tap water?
No. Water will need to be boiled for two minutes and cooled prior to use for making coffee. Bottled water may be used as a substitute.
Can my pets drink water during a Boil Water Advisory?
No. Water will need to be boiled for two minutes and cooled prior to use or water obtained from some other suitable source prior to consumption.
Can I wash dishes by hand?
Yes, if dishes are disinfected with chlorine bleach solution after washing. Wash and rinse dishes with hot water like normal. After dishes are rinsed, soak dishes for at least 2 minutes in a bleach solution. To make a bleach solution, add 1 tsp. of liquid, unscented bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) per 1 cup of warm water. Let the dishes air dry completely.
Can I use my dishwasher?
You can use your dishwasher if it works well and has a hot temperature setting or sanitizer cycle.
If your dishwasher does not have a hot temperature setting, stop the dishwasher at the rinse cycle, add 4 tsp. of liquid, unscented bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) and restart the dishwasher. Let the dishes dry completely on the heated dry cycle.
How do I sanitize my countertop, cutting board, or other kitchen surfaces?
Wash kitchen surfaces with soap and water, rinse, then wipe them down with a bleach solution. Make a new bleach solution every day so it works well to kill germs. To make a bleach solution, add 1 tsp. of liquid, unscented bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) per 1 cup of warm water. Spray or pour the solution on surfaces that food will touch and let it sit for at least 2 minutes before drying with a clean towel.
Can tap water be used for cleaning non-food contact surfaces?
Yes. You can clean surfaces such as floors and walls using tap water with standard cleaning agents.
Can I do laundry during a Boil Water Advisory?
Yes, you can do laundry.
Do I need to flush my water system after a Boil Water Advisory has been rescinded?
Before a Boil Water Advisory is rescinded, TCEQ requires that representative WTCPUA distribution samples be collected that test negative for bacteria, and that the distribution system be flushed. Accordingly, water will be safe for consumption after a Boil Water Advisory is lifted. Customers are not required to flush their water systems or appliances, but may do so if desired.
Should ice in the freezer that was made during Boil Water Advisory be discarded?
Yes, the ice should be discarded.