Austin City Council voted today to authorize negotiation and execution of a financing agreement for a $6.2 million low-interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board’s State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) loan program.
The 20-year low-interest loan will provide initial funding for Austin Water’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure pilot program. The technology will provide near real-time water consumption data, giving customers the ability to reduce water loss and better manage their bill. It also lays the foundation for the utility to more accurately detect leaks within its infrastructure, helping to improve system reliability and reducing water loss.
“We are investing today to build the infrastructure of tomorrow,” said David Anders, Assistant Director of Austin Water Financial Services. “With the use of low-interest SWIFT funds, we are able to invest more on infrastructure and technology that is capable of adapting to the needs of the community, while saving millions on interest payments. The return on these investments will benefit our customers for years to come.”
Austin Water has used SWIFT funds since 2016, leveraging the program’s low-interest loans to innovate at cost-effective rates. The funding program has allowed the utility to save $10 million to $17 million for every $100 million borrowed.
The strategic moves by Austin Water to reduce expenses over the years allowed the utility to defy national trends when it announced water rate reductions in 2018 and saved retail customers up to $26.7 million on their water bills. New forecasts show the utility’s strategic moves paying off again with reduced water rates expected to stay in place into the coming years.
State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) Loan Program
Austin Water’s infrastructure improvements funded through the low-interest SWIFT loan program include:
- Construction of the Montopolis Tank, an above ground storage tank and pump station, that expands the reclaimed water system
- Filtration upgrades to the Walnut Wastewater Treatment Plant and the South Austin Regional Treatment Plant
- the Advanced Metering Infrastructure pilot program
Austin Water will continue to seek out infrastructure projects that can benefit from SWIFT funding.
Affordability and Infrastructure Improvements
Improving affordability and infrastructure stability are components of the utility’s long-term strategic business plan that uses Effective Utility Management strategies to meet the challenges ahead. The utility has chosen to focus on improving Stakeholder Understanding and Support with an emphasis on Affordability, Customer Satisfaction, Employee and Leadership Development, and Infrastructure Stability. Taken together, improvements in these target areas are helping the utility continue to be an industry leader and improve operations and resiliency.