Typically, water utilities’ budgets are funded by revenue
collected through water and sewer rates. Revenue generated by
rates covers the costs of operations, as well as ongoing upgrades
and repairs to pipelines, treatment plants, sewers and other
State legislation also has affected the water rate-setting
process by requiring new processes for altering water rates, as
well as by requiring water conservation, which in turn decreases
the demand for water.
Californians responded to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request for
voluntary water conservation earlier this year by using more,
not less. … Already, residents face sharp new outdoor water
restrictions June 1, and serious doubts over whether those
limits will be enough to cope with a historic water shortage.
It’s a good time to imagine the ideal California of the future,
in which information technology and rational pricing make water
conservation simple, understandable and a common way of life.
Here’s how it should work, as a resident pulls out his or her
phone and at the touch of a button checks the household’s water
use for that day in real time:
As drought conditions worsen in California and other western
states, rating analysts are weighing the potential impacts.
California state water officials announced during a media call
Tuesday that the governor plans to increase his budget request
for state conservation efforts after the state’s residents
failed to heed his request in March to reduce consumption,
instead increasing usage by 19% compared to the same month in
2020. Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to add an additional $180 million
for a total of $300 million when he releases his revised
proposed budget on Friday, said Lisa Lien-Mager, a spokeswoman
with the California Department of Water Resources.
Long Beach residents and business owners could soon get another
one-time credit on their monthly water bills if the Long Beach
Board of Water Commissioners votes Thursday to return upward of
$21.8 million to customers later this year. The vote is looming
because, in March, the city lost an appeal to keep in place the
Measure M charter amendment, which allowed the Water Department
to transfer millions of dollars in excess money to the city’s
general fund each year.
Long Beach Water Department customers will be seeing a small
decrease in their monthly bills after the city’s water
commission voted Wednesday to lower rates after the city’s
legal defeat over transferring excess revenue from the
department into its general fund. The 2.54% decrease will
result in a savings of about $2 per month for most residential
customers for the rest of the fiscal year that ends in
September. Lauren Gold, the department’s public information
officer, said the reduction will result in a loss of about $3
million for the department.
When it comes to wasteful, overpriced and ill-considered
proposals to address California’s water supply issues, it’s
hard to know where to start. But a good place would be the plan
to build a desalination plant on the Pacific coast at
Huntington Beach. … As I’ve reported in the past,
there isn’t much to recommend the Huntington Beach project. It
would seriously damage the marine coastal environment, produce
the costliest water of any source available and raise water
bills for residents and businesses. -Written by Michael Hiltzik, LA Times business
California walnut grower Tim McCord is at the dry end of the
spigot, facing a zero-water allocation from the Central Valley
Project, which is supposed to deliver to his local San Benito
County Water District. … The farmer is not just concerned
about his orchard; he’s also frustrated that he owes
substantial water-related taxes to the district, and, if water
is eventually delivered, he’ll be charged $309.75 per acre-foot
— more than in non-drought years. McCord is not alone.
During drought, it’s common for farmers across the West to pay
higher water-related rates, assessments, fees and taxes than
during wet years.
A sale of agricultural water within the Panoche Water District
on the upper west side of the San Joaquin Valley hit the
eye-popping price of $2,000 per acre foot recently. The buyer
bought 668 acre feet in a deal that was brokered by Nat DiBuduo
with Alliance Ag Services. … Last year, the same sellers,
also unnamed, sold water for $1,648 and $1,800 per acre foot,
indicating how a third year of drought is pushing up the price
of water, according to the broker.
To see the trickle-down effect of the drought, you don’t have
to look much further than farms. Agriculture accounts for about
80% of the water used in California. … Selling fruit got
tougher during the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining the
farm got more expensive. Despite painstaking rationing and
letting go of several productive acres, water remains Bernard’s
most painful monthly expense. His February bill was as
expensive as last June’s — normally one of the hottest and
Rural residents using well water in the sprawling Santa Rosa
Plain would pay about $20 a year under a state-mandated program
aimed at protecting groundwater for the next 50 years. The
10-member board that governs the agency overseeing Sonoma
County’s largest groundwater basin favors a regulatory fee
structure based on the estimated amount of water well owners
pump from the ground, officials reported at a virtual community
meeting Wednesday night.
New guidelines were released in early April for a federally
funded program meant to help low income families pay their
outstanding water bills. The Low Income Household Water
Assistance Program is part of an emergency effort to respond to
the economic impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In
California, the Department of Community Services and
Development is the designated agency responsible for overseeing
the program. The finalized state plan defines the scope of the
program and how it will be implemented.
Some Santa Paula residents with overdue water bills are getting
a break thanks to a state grant for COVID-19 pandemic relief.
The city is using $366,000 in funds from the State Water
Resources Control Board through the California Water and
Wastewater Arrearage Payment Program to cover overdue
residential and commercial water bill payments as a result of
the pandemic, according to a news release.
In a dramatic shift from California’s history of allowing
landowners to freely pump and consume water from their own
wells, Sonoma County’s rural residents and many others will
soon begin paying for the water drawn from beneath their
feet…. The residential fees are based on an assumption
that rural residents typically pump a half-acre foot of well
water a year. Most homes do not have water meters and none will
be installed under the fee program. Large groundwater water
users — including ranches, cities, water districts and
businesses — would pay fees based on the volume of water drawn
from their wells.
The Vallejo Flood & Wastewater District announced Tuesday that
the proposed stormwater fee for Vallejo property owners did not
pass the vote. The fee increase was put forward to help cover
the cost of providing flood protection, improve water quality
in local creeks and lakes with trash removal, and other
projects that are required under California and federal laws.
Most Vallejo residents have not seen an increase to their $1.97
per month stormwater fee in 25 years. Of the 32,331 ballots
mailed to property owners, 7,210 (22.30 percent) were returned
— 32.21 percent were in favor, and 67.79 percent were opposed.
As California slowly emerges from
the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, one remnant left behind by
the statewide lockdown offers a sobering reminder of the economic
challenges still ahead for millions of the state’s residents and
the water agencies that serve them – a mountain of water debt.
Water affordability concerns, long an issue in a state where
millions of people struggle to make ends meet, jumped into
overdrive last year as the pandemic wrenched the economy. Jobs
were lost and household finances were upended. Even with federal
stimulus aid and unemployment checks, bills fell by the wayside.
Low-income Californians can get help with their phone bills, their natural gas bills and their electric bills. But there’s only limited help available when it comes to water bills.
That could change if the recommendations of a new report are implemented into law. Drafted by the State Water Resources Control Board, the report outlines the possible components of a program to assist low-income households facing rising water bills.
In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.
During drought, people conserve water. That’s a good thing for
public water agencies and the state as a whole but the reduction
in use ultimately means less money flowing into the budgets of
those very agencies that need funds to treat water to drinkable
standards, maintain a distribution system, and build a more
“There are two things that can’t happen to a water utility – you
can’t run out of money and you can’t run out of water,” said Tom
Esqueda, public utilities director for the city of Fresno. He was
a panelist at a June 16 discussion in Sacramento about drought
resiliency sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California
This printed issue of Western Water examines the
financing of water infrastructure, both at the local level and
from the statewide perspective, and some of the factors that
influence how people receive their water, the price they pay for
it and how much they might have to pay in the future.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at some of
the pieces of the 2009 water legislation, including the Delta
Stewardship Council, the new requirements for groundwater
monitoring and the proposed water bond.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the
changed nature of the California Water Plan, some aspects of the
2009 update (including the recommendation for a water finance
plan) and the reaction by certain stakeholders.
This printed copy of Western Water examines the challenges facing
small water systems, including drought preparedness, limited
operating expenses and the hurdles of complying with costlier
regulations. Much of the article is based on presentations at the
November 2007 Small Systems Conference sponsored by the Water
Education Foundation and the California Department of Water
This printed issue of Western Water features a
roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources
consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development
with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor
to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial
page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of
research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of
Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the
faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close
to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their
water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and
testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to
households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from,
how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality
are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress
A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water:
Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at
community forums and speaking engagements to help the public
understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems
and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to
households throughout the state.
It’s no secret that providing water in a state with the size and
climate of California costs money. The gamut of water-related
infrastructure – from reservoirs like Lake Oroville to the pumps
and pipes that deliver water to homes, businesses and farms –
incurs initial and ongoing expenses. Throw in a new spate of
possible mega-projects, such as those designed to rescue the
ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and the dollar amount grows
exponentially to billion-dollar amounts that rival the entire
gross national product of a small country.