Water, sewer rates due for an update

By Crystal Crawford

Mayor, Del Mar

Every five years, the City of Del Mar conducts a water and sewer rate study and then implements an updated rate schedule. Our current utility rates expire on June 30, 2009, so the City Council recently reconvened the Utility Rate Advisory Committee to assist in the process and gather valuable community input into the rate setting and structure.

The Committee members represent all classes of water and sewer customers, including single-family, multi-family, and business users.

After a competitive process, FCS Group was selected to complete the technical rate study.

FCS Group is highly experienced and will also review our water and sewer rates and connection fees. The connection fees for new meters include a hook-up component, where new users reimburse the city for actual expenses in making the physical connection to the water and sewer system, and a capacity charge, or buy-in component, where new users purchase a share of system capacity based upon meter size. Our water and sewer connection fees were last updated in 1995.

This cycle’s rate-setting process will also revisit how our rate structure can encourage even greater water conservation. Although recent rains have helped, Southern California continues to face a severe water shortage.

As of this writing, the California snow pack is only 74 percent of normal, and reservoir levels remain extremely low. The massive Diamond Valley Reservoir near Winchester is barely at half capacity. It is more likely than not that water use cutbacks of up to 20 percent will be implemented July 1 with severe penalties for noncompliance.

The current review of the city’s rate structure will include adjustments to account for mandatory cutbacks and to ensure the correct application of penalties against water users who exceed their allocation.

Conservation tips, rebates and other forms of water-saving assistance are available at


The City’s Utility Rate Advisory Committee’s next meeting is Tuesday, March 17. In addition, a public workshop on rates is planned for April 23 at 5:30 p.m. in the City Hall Annex, with a scheduled public hearing before the City Council on May 4.

Public input is invited at all meetings. Please contact City Hall or check the city’s Web site at

for the latest schedule and meeting agendas.