San Diego Water Rates Going Up

San Diego water rates going up 6.4 percent

By Mike Lee

Originally published January 24, 2011 at 5:18 p.m., updated January 24, 2011 at 7:07 p.m.

San Diegans will pay roughly 6.4 percent more for water starting in March, after the City Council voted 6-2 Monday to increase rates despite angry comments by a few dozen ratepayers and more than 13,000 signed protest forms.

Even larger rate increases have been adopted elsewhere around the region in recent months, as cities and water districts struggle to swallow a series of hefty rate increases from wholesale suppliers.

“Pretty soon, this native San Diegan is going to have to find somewhere else to live,” said John Robinson of University Heights.

San Diego council members said they had no choice but to increase charges that will push the bill for the typical homeowner to $72.03 starting in March — a 67 percent increase since early 2007. That’s about $4.33 per month more than residential customers pay today for a citywide total of about $25 million a year.

If the city had not adopted the increase, it would have had to find other funds to pay the bills, such as taking cost-cutting measures or using savings.

Water rates across the county

Escondido: The City Council on Wednesday will consider a 9 percent increase to pay for wholesale increases and city plans, such as replacing aging infrastructure.

Helix: Rates went up 8 percent in November to cover higher wholesale costs, replenish the agency’s rate stabilization fund and make up for lost sales to customers who conserved more than anticipated.

Santa Fe: Recently raised 2011 rates by 12 percent and set the groundwork for similar increases each of the next two years.

Valley Center: Increased domestic rates by 16 percent. Besides water expenses, the district said it had to boost rates because operating revenues weren’t covering operating costs.

Vista: Residents will pay about 7 percent more starting in March to cover higher wholesale rates. Agency officials said they didn’t add any of their own costs.

Council members said they wouldn’t stop with Monday’s decision. They also voted to ask the state Legislature to support investigations into the finances of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies the bulk of the region’s water. And they signaled interest in joining the San Diego County Water Authority in a lawsuit against Metropolitan’s rate structure, which local officials said subsidizes other regions at the expense of San Diego County residents.

The issue of rate increases is almost certain to emerge again by the end of the year if Metropolitan follows through with plans to increase its rates by 7.5 percent in 2012.

“We are completely at the mercy of MWD,” said councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who crafted an amendment seeking investigations into the wholesalers’ finances. “While I am respectful of those who chose to vote no today, personally I worried that voting no was a return to past practices where the city created a long list of deferred maintenance because nobody wanted to make the tough decisions.”

Councilman Carl DeMaio said there were several ways to cut waste out of the city water department and voted along with Marti Emerald to oppose the rate increases. Emerald urged city officials to tap more than $30 million in savings to avoid the increases.

“You’ve got a (rate) stabilization fund set up just for this purpose — to give a break to people on fixed incomes,” Emerald said.

City utility officials opposed her idea because they plan to use that money for construction projects they said the city needs to maintain a safe drinking water system.

“We don’t have much of a choice here,” Council president Tony Young said outside the meeting.

Metropolitan leaders have maintained for months that they are cutting costs aggressively and are themselves hostage to forces beyond their control, such as energy prices, debt on infrastructure, environmental restrictions and falling water sales. They have rejected the water authority’s argument that regional rates are unfair.

San Diego council members said they would explore the possibility of joining the rate lawsuit against Metropolitan in closed session as a way to show a more aggressive stance toward the Los Angeles-based agency. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith warned that the council may not want to do that because it would increase the city’s legal fees in the case, which the city already is helping fund through the county water authority.

Before the council’s decision, speaker after speaker urged city leaders to find another way to pay the higher bills from Metropolitan. Most of them were retirees or unemployed people who said they were barely making ends meet. One woman brought a notice from the city that her water was about to be shut off.

Gae Walker of Scripps Ranch voiced a common concern, saying she and her husband had cut their water use by more than 30 percent in recent years “yet the bills continue to rise.”



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  1. Dyan says:

    The increase in our water rates is to pay for the fluoridation and basically the poisoning of our water.
    We need a vote on the ballot to end fluoridation of our tap water.
    It’s toxic!
    It DOES NOT fight tooth decay!

  2. SafeH20 says:

    Well they must pay for the toxic waste from China they will be dumping in our water supply under the guise of fluoride to fight tooth decay.
    Look it up people. Drinking fluoride doesn’t fight cavities. The substance we will all be paying to drink is not pharmaceutical grade fluoride, but a waste product from manufacturing laced with other goodies such as arsenic and lead.
    Call, write, fax your council member, mayor and county supervisor. This will begin sooner than you think.

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