GWA income soars 30% as water rates continue to rise

Text: Gaynor D. Daleno / Retrieved from The Guam Daily

The Guam Waterworks Authority collected much more money from customers than the amount GWA needed to provide power and wastewater services, according to an audit report released Tuesday.

GWA’s revenues from water and wastewater customers reached $105.4 million in fiscal year 2016, or a 13-percent increase compared to $93 million in the prior year, according to the audit released by Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks’ office.

The increase was largely due to a 16.5-percent rate increase in water and wastewater rates last fiscal year, the report states.

Residential, commercial and hotel sectors account for 89 percent of GWA’s water revenues, the audit states.

While GWA’s operating income increased 30 percent, to $37.9 milion, its operating expenses increased by $3.5 million, or 5.5 percent, according to the report.

Since 2004, GWA has increased its water and wastewater rates 13 times, with the 16.5-percent rate increase in 2015 being the highest, according to the report.

A 3.5-percent increase went into effect last year for all customer categories, except agriculture.

There will be another 4-percent increase that takes effect in October this year.

Future rate increases are likely to fund an estimated $450 million in projects to improve water and wastewater infrastructure, according to the audit.

The audit also found:

Debt

As of Sept. 30, 2016, GWA had total long-term debt of $523 million, which is an increase of 25.6 percent over the prior year.

On Feb. 9, 2016, GWA borrowed $143 million for water and wastewater projects.

Waste

Historically, one of GWA’s most challenging problems has been the amount of water that is unaccounted for by GWA, according to the audit.

“Unaccounted for … water in the system during this time period was approximately 58 percent of the water supplied to the system,” the audit states.

“This unaccounted water or leakage has occurred for some time. The difference between supply and sales is due to leakage, malfunctioning meters, and water used for line flushing, fighting fires, and similar activities,” the audit states. “Since 2012, GWA implemented an initiative to reduce its response time to identified leaks in the water supply system and a program to replace defective meters.”