Topic: Water Rates


Water Rates

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 water infrastructure.

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.

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Sen. Alex Padilla focuses on water affordability in hearing

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., convened his first hearing as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife, on Wednesday. Sen. Padilla appeared on the KCRA News morning show on My58 and said the hearing will focus on how rising water rates, aging infrastructure and extreme weather events have affected access and affordability of clean water across the country. … According to a state audit in 2022, California required an estimated $64.7 billion to upgrade its water infrastructure. In April, the EPA awarded a fraction of that, $391 million. To hear more about the subcommittee’s initiatives, watch the attached video.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Opinion: California water proposal has dark, hidden currents

When’s the last time you thought about where your water comes from? If you aren’t steeped in water policy, it’s fair to assume you may not appreciate the complexities of managing our water systems. But what’s vital to know is that water is the essential building block to ensure prosperous, healthy communities. This resource ensures housing gets built, people can afford groceries and local businesses can offer good jobs. Legislation introduced in Sacramento creates uncertainty that threatens these underpinnings of our economy. As a former legislator, I trust that my former colleagues had the best intentions in putting these policies forward, but residents should be aware that these bills are far reaching and will create dramatic changes that increase costs.
-Written by Jerry Hill, a former state senator and assemblyman 19th District who represented San Mateo and Santa Clara County residents in the California Legislature. 

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

The boundary referees deciding San Diego’s water district divorce

Two small farming communities want to divorce the ­­San Diego County Water Authority and buy cheaper water from Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County. The Water Authority’s rates are some of the highest in the country, especially for agricultural regions that Fallbrook Public Utility District and Rainbow Municipal Water District serve. That’s why those districts are trying to leave. The Water Authority’s rates have been growing for years, but they’re actually selling a lot less water. Mostly to blame are the rising costs of transporting Colorado River water or making it new by desalting ocean water. The Water Authority is staring down billions in debt and will lose a large portion of their sales once the city of San Diego, the Water Authority’s biggest customer, launches its wastewater-to-drinking water recycling program called Pure Water. 

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Monterey Peninsula water district loses second court battle

Legal challenges to a Monterey Peninsula water district’s ratepayer fee that dates back a least a decade reached fruition Friday when a judge ruled against the district for a second time. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta ruled Friday on a motion by the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District for a new trial after Panetta earlier ruled against the district in a lawsuit brought by the Monterey Peninsula Taxpayers Association over a fee the district has been charging taxpayers. If the district is stopped from collecting the fee, called a water supply fee, it could have a huge impact on district revenues at a time when the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District is partnering with Monterey One Water to invest in the Pure Water Monterey expansion project, which the district says could supply enough water to the Monterey Peninsula for the next few decades.

Aquafornia news Tehachapi News

Water district board approves $12 million in financing to replace pump plant engines, $12K bonus for GM

Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District will spend about $12 million to replace engines in two of its four pump plants, financing the project over 15 years with an estimated annual debt service of about $1.02 million. A total of eight engines — four each in Pump Plants 2 and 3 — will be replaced.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Storms filled California reservoirs. So why are water bills spiking?

All that rain and snow captured in California’s reservoirs this year means plenty of water to go around. But it isn’t doing anything to reduce your household water bill. The Bay Area’s largest water suppliers, including the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the East Bay Municipal Utility District, are planning new rate hikes for water and sewer service, starting this summer. Many of these increases will be the biggest in years. San Francisco residents can expect to see an average 8.3% annual jump in their combined water-sewer bill over the next three years, or a cumulative 27% increase. EBMUD customers can anticipate an 8.5% increase in each of the next two years, or a roughly 18% total hike. … Both EBMUD and the SFPUC, alongside other utilities planning new rate hikes, intend to spend the bulk of their additional revenue on capital improvements.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

1M Californians are in the dark about potential steep water rate hikes. Are you one?

Diana Juarez’ granddaughters, 9 and 11, want her to buy them a kiddie pool to splash in on triple-digit days in Niland, a tiny town tucked in California’s blisteringly hot southeastern corner. No way, she tells them firmly. With summer water bills that can approach $200 a month, “that’s just water down the drain. We can’t afford that.” Juarez and her neighbors soon could face even higher bills. Once again, Golden State Water Company, the investor-owned utility that serves her and more than 1 million customers in 80 communities across California, has asked for rate increases. And once again, the California Public Utilities Commission is poised to approve a legal agreement that would raise rates, this time by nearly 14% for her community through 2024, and on average by 15% across the company’s service area, from parts of Sacramento and Simi Valley to Los Angeles and Orange County suburbs, and desert communities like Lucerne and Apple Valley. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Marin County to see water rates jump by about 20% from MMWD

Some Marin County residents could see 20% increases to their water bills this summer if officials vote Tuesday evening to boost rates. Marin Municipal Water District said the increase is needed because of rising costs and decreasing revenues — partly driven by people responding to calls for conservation and using less water. The proposal includes rate increases for the next four years starting July 1. The average single-family customer would see their bimonthy bills — which are currently $138.66 — jump by $31.96 this summer, followed by a $20.48 increase in July 2024, $16.27 in 2025 and $11.43 in 2026.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin Municipal Water District defends plan for huge rate hike

The Marin Municipal Water District is poised to adopt one of its largest rate hikes in decades on Tuesday — a move that will increase water costs for customers by about 20% — but staff costs are not the driver, utility officials said. Agency staff and governing board members said one of the primary reasons behind the increase is to create new water supplies to avoid what occurred in 2021, when the agency faced the possibility of depleting its reservoirs amid a historic drought. … A common point of debate among ratepayers is how much of their water bills are going to staff wages, pensions and other benefits. Staffing costs account for about 40% of the district’s overall budget, but only comprise 4% of the proposed rate hike set to go before the board on Tuesday, said Bret Uppendahl, the district finance director. In 2022-2023, the district operated on a $116.1 million budget, which includes an operating budget of $92.2 million and a capital budget of $23.9 million.

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Cal Am refusal could set stage for condemnation proceeding

As expected, California American Water Co. is flatly refusing to consider the offer public water officials made to buy out the company’s Monterey Peninsula’s water system, saying the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District has no legal authority to do so. The water district believes it does. … The district said their attempt is neither reckless nor infeasible, rather it is mandated by Measure J that directed the district to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of a public takeover of Cal Am’s system.  Cal Am insists Measure J only required the district to conduct a study, not move forward with a takeover. 

Aquafornia news San Diego Union-Tribune

Pure Water: City rethinks sewage recycling, eyes Lake Murray

With phase one of San Diego’s Pure Water sewage recycling system nearly half built, city officials are making major adjustments to plans for constructing the rest of the system in order to avoid delays and potentially shrink overall costs. To cope with severe flooding at the Morena Boulevard pump station that threatens to delay the start of operations by more than a year, city officials now plan to temporarily recycle only 40 percent as much sewage so they can start on time in mid-2025.

Aquafornia news San Diego Union-Tribune

North County farmers want to ditch expensive water supplier. Will elected leaders stop them?

Should two rural North County communities be allowed to purchase cheaper water from outside of the San Diego region in a desperate attempt to save farming — even if it could mean slightly higher bills for other ratepayers? That’s a question elected leaders will have to answer in coming weeks, as a years-long attempt by water managers in Fallbrook and Rainbow to flee skyrocketing rates comes to a head. … The situation is largely unprecedented in California, only made possible because the rolling North County countryside is already directly connected to water pipes in Riverside County. The savings for the two water districts would be substantial, according to a detailed report released Thursday.

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Monterey Peninsula water users battle Cal Am rate increase

It’s a good thing for California American Water Co. that rate increases aren’t determined by a popularity contest, otherwise state regulators on Tuesday would have sent the Monterey Peninsula water purveyor packing. Members of the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, held a two-part hearing at Seaside City Hall Tuesday afternoon and evening to solicit public viewpoints on an application – called a rate case — filed by Cal Am to increase water rates over a three-year period beginning next year. The CPUC got an earful. All but two of the 17 speakers who testified to the CPUC representatives were highly critical of Cal Am. One of two who did not lodge complaints said there was plenty of water in the Carmel River aquifer, which wasn’t the focus of the hearing. 

Aquafornia news KSBW - Monterey

Skepticism over Cal Am’s proposed water rate change

California American Water is once again getting public backlash—this time over a proposed plan to increase everyone’s water bill. Every three years, Cal Am has to submit a rate plan to the California Public Utilities Commission, who’s currently in the midst of reviewing the proposal and receiving public feedback. On Tuesday, the commission held a meeting in Seaside to hear from Monterey County customers as it considers Cal Am’s proposal to increase revenue by over $55 million statewide over the next three years, and thereby, increase the bill for ratepayers. In Monterey County, the proposed revenue increase is about $10 million. But starting January 2024, Cal Am says the average water bill could actually decrease.

Aquafornia news Red Bluff Daily News

Bell Ranch trustee sues Tehama County Flood Control over water fee

The Tehama County Flood Control and Water Conservation District has been sued along with its board of directors by a trustee of Bell Ranch. David Garst filed suit on April 3, alleging the district violated Propositions 13, 218, and 26, Government Code section 54999.7, along with common law of utility rulemaking, when the TCFC passed a $0.29 per acre registration fee on June 20, 2022. The lawsuit was the subject of a special meeting that was a joint closed session with the County Board of Supervisors and the TCFC on April 18. That meeting was held one day after the regular April 17 meeting was canceled. In the 15-page filing, He’s asking that the court vacate and rescind the fee and refund him any payment of the fee, to stop charging him based simply on the amount of acreage he owns, absent any evidence in the rate-making record that demonstrates the basis to impose the charge and “Commission a cost of service analysis to establish a sufficient basis for charges.”

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

North Marin Water District proposes 9.5% rate hike for Novato

Novato area residents could see higher water rates beginning this summer under a proposal by the North Marin Water District. The district is proposing to increase rates by 9.5% in July, which district staff said would increase the median residential customer’s bimonthly water bill by about $12. The proposed rate hike is about 3% more than those adopted in recent years. District General Manager Tony Williams said the larger rate hike is needed to address inflation impacts, lower water sales from continued conservation and a doubling of rates to purchase imported water from the Sonoma Water agency, which is Novato’s main source of water.

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Pandemic Lockdown Exposes the Vulnerability Some Californians Face Keeping Up With Water Bills
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Growing mountain of water bills spotlights affordability and hurdles to implementing a statewide assistance program

Single-family residential customers who are behind on their water bills in San Diego County's Helix Water District can get a one-time credit on their bill through a rate assistance program funded with money from surplus land sales.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.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

With Sustainability Plans Filed, Groundwater Agencies Now Must Figure Out How To Pay For Them
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: California's Prop. 218 taxpayer law and local politics could complicate efforts to finance groundwater improvement projects

A groundwater monitoring well in Colusa County, north of Sacramento. The bill is coming due, literally, to protect and restore groundwater in California.

Local agencies in the most depleted groundwater basins in California spent months putting together plans to show how they will achieve balance in about 20 years.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

California Officials Draft a $600M Plan To Help Low-Income Households Absorb Rising Water Bills
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report proposes new taxes on personal and business income or fees on bottled water and booze to fund rate relief program

Filling a glass with clean water from the kitchen tap.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.

Western Water California Water Map Layperson's Guide to the State Water Project Gary Pitzer

As He Steps Aside, Tim Quinn Talks About ‘Adversarialists,’ Collaboration and Hope For Solving the State’s Tough Water Issues
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Tim Quinn, retiring executive director of Association of California Water Agencies

ACWA Executive Director Tim Quinn  with a report produced by Association of California Water Agencies on  sustainable groundwater management.  (Source:  Association of California Water Agencies)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.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

Drought’s Impact on Fiscal Planning Highlights PPIC Report
Suppliers need “proactive” drought pricing to prevent cash crunch

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 drought-proof supply.

“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 (PPIC).

Western Water Magazine

Ante Up: Funding California’s Water
May/June 2014

This printed issue of Western Water looks at how water use is paid for and the push to make public financing more flexible.

Western Water Magazine

Are We Keeping Up With Water Infrastructure Needs?
January/February 2012

This printed issue of Western Water examines water infrastructure – its costs and the quest to augment traditional brick-and-mortar facilities with sleeker, “green” features.

Western Water Magazine

Dollars and Sense: How We Pay for Water
September/October 2009

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.

Western Water Magazine

Changing the Status Quo: The 2009 Water Package
January/February 2010

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.

Western Water Magazine

A ‘New Direction’ for Water Decisions? The California Water Plan
May/June 2010

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.

Western Water Magazine

Small Water Systems, Big Challenges
May/June 2008

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 Resources.

Western Water Magazine

Viewing Water with a Wide Angle Lens: A Roundtable Discussion
January/February 2013

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 California.


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (60-minute DVD)

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 Wendie Malick. 


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (30-minute DVD)

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.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Dollars and Sense: How We Pay For Water
September/October 2009

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.