News Feature | December 3, 2013

Water Rate Could Double For Some In San Diego

By Sara Jerome

sandiegoskylinereg

Water rates are going way up in San Diego. 

The city council approved a rate hike last month, according to ABC 10 News. For some residents, the water bill could go up by 100 percent.

"Rates would go up by a few cents per hundred cubic feet for miserly water consumers, and could double from $4.40 per HCF to $8.80 per HCF for those who use water lavishly," the report said. "City staff said about 10 percent of residential customers fit the latter category."

The move is needed to shore up the city's shaky financial picture. 

"Officials say without the extra charges, the city's credit rating could be at risk," NBC 7 San Diego reported.  The new rate structure "will boost revenue by 7.25 percent in the 2014 calendar year and by up to 7.5 percent the following year," ABC said.

The rate hike is overdue because the city did not raise rates in previous years, officials say.

"We basically underfunded the system for a couple of years," Councilman and mayoral candidate David Alvarez said in the ABC report. "We cannot continue to act in this irresponsible manner going forward."

The city gets its water from the wholesaler Metropolitan Water District (MWD), the report said. "More than 90 percent of the hike is due to higher MWD prices,” officials said. 

The majority of the council voted for the increase. "This is one of those damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't votes," Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said in the ABC report. 

ABC detailed the billing changes: Under the new system, bills will include a base fee and a charge for the number of hundred cubic feet consumed each month. Currently, for a single-family home, "the city has three tiers of rates for low, moderate and heavy water users. That will be expanded to four tiers next year."

Opponents of the rate hike said poor families will get hit the hardest, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune

Rates and debt are up at water utilities across the country. 

"Utility debt and water rates increased from 2000-2010, by 33 percent and 23 percent respectively," Water Online previously reported. "The overall increase is disproportionately driven by the top-third of utilities, which have debt and rate increases over 100 percent." 

Image credit: "San-Diego-HDR," © 2005 peasap, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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