SAWS customers say recent water bills are 'outrageous,' some upset over CEO's $100k bonus

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Water System's CEO Robert Puente received a $100,000 bonus and a 5% salary increase on July 3 following a review by an outside consulting company.

Puente's annual salary increased from approximately $468,000 to $496,520, SAWS spokesperson Anne Hayden told KSAT. Puente, who has been CEO at SAWS for a decade, is the second-highest-paid city employee in San Antonio.

A consultant determined that Puente's salary was 5% below the national, regional and local market, and the SAWS Board agreed. SAWS is one of the largest publicly owned utility companies in the country, most large cities throughout the U.S. contract with private energy companies.

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Puente previously turned down a $100,000 performance bonus in 2018, also recommended by the board, according to the Rivard Report, referring to the bonus as a distraction.

The raise and bonus predate the inundation of emails KSAT has received in recent weeks from SAWS customers who are upset about water bills they described as higher than normal. 

"Many of my neighbors are being shocked with water bills 2-3 times their normal amounts, with some in the $1000+ range," a SAWS customer wrote to KSAT in an email, adding that high prices are "hurting hundreds of hard-working families." "And the CEO just received a 5% raise and $100,000 bonus!"

SAWS released at statement earlier this month addressing the charges, saying in part that the utility pumped an average of 297.9 million gallons of water per day to meet customer demand, the highest average since August 2010.

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“We are currently in a drought because of little to no rain since early July, however, the Edwards Aquifer is still above 660 feet and drought restrictions haven’t been triggered," said SAWS Conservation Director Karen Guz.

Guz also said that SAWS tiered system for charging per gallon means customers pay more per gallon as their use rises. "It can result in customers receiving bills higher than they are used to.”



In regard to Puente's bonus and pay increase, Hayden cited "major accomplishments" overseen by Puente, including "the Vista Ridge water project, completion of SAWS desalination plant, overseeing a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency to address sewer infrastructure concerns, and diversifying San Antonio’s water supply and developing a 50-year water plan."

"All in all, our rates are part of well-run utility, which has received state, national, and international awards," Hayden said.

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