By Karen Billing
On Nov. 21, the San Diego City Council will hold a hearing on proposed water rate changes for 2014 and 2015. Due to the increasing cost of water, the city is proposing to increase water rate revenues by 7.25 percent on Jan. 1, 2014 and 7.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2015.
David Stallman, from the City of San Diego’s public utilities department, visited the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board on Oct. 24 to explain the driving factors of the increases and how it will affect homeowners’ bills.
“We’ve done everything we can to avoid raising rates,” Stallman said.
He said the city has done a lot in terms of making operations more efficient with infrastructure improvements, reducing the number of employees by 415, refinancing outstanding bonds to save $103 million, and saving $251 million in grants and state loans.
Stallman said 85 percent of the water used by San Diego residents and businesses is imported and the cost of bringing the resource to the city is high. Since 2008, the costs have doubled and they are only expected to increase for years to come.
Forty-three percent of their total expenses on the water side is just to bring water to San Diego.
Stallman said the public utilities department will see an overall revenue increase of 7.25 percent, but the amount of increase an individual customer will see on their bill will vary depending on how much water they use.
Meter charges are proposed to be reduced starting in 2014 so a large portion of the city’s customers may actually see a decrease in their rates, Stallman said.
Most single-family residential home’s meter size is 5/8 inch or 3/4 inch and for that size the monthly charge would go from $19.33 to $18.89.
One-inch meter sizes will go from $28.46 a month to $25.59; two inch meters will go from $75.44 a month to $60.03.
“Many people say ‘I conserve and yet my bill keeps going up’. We feel your pain,” Stallman said.
The city is proposing four monthly billing tiers that would incentivize people to use less water.
For a family that uses a low 400-cubic-feet (hcf) of water a month, their bill could go from $33.77 a month to $33.45 a month in 2014 and $35.95 a month in 2015.
Stallman said the average family uses 12 hcf, which would represent an increase in a current bill of $64.20 to $66.09 in 2014 and $70.99 in 2015.
For a single-family that uses more water, such as 25 hcf, their bill could leap from $120.44 currently to $170.15 by 2015.
“High volume users are going to feel the pinch,” Stallman said. “Hopefully it will incentivize conservation.
Residents do have a say in these increases. Written comments can be submitted to the city before the Nov. 21 hearing. If they receive 50 percent plus one in protest, the rate increases cannot go forward. Every resident was mailed a notice of pubic hearing with protest instructions — they must be mailed in. The Nov. 21 hearing will begin at 10 a.m. at the city administration building, 202 C Street, San Diego, 12th floor. To download the public notice or learn more about this issue, visit sandiego.gov/water/rates.