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Water rates set for increase: Rate hike necessary despite less water usage
May 08, 2013, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff
Demands for most water companies in California have dropped significantly the last few years for a variety of reasons but the bills keep going up and will climb by up to 17.3 percent next year for California Water Service Company customers in San Mateo, San Carlos and South San Francisco, called the Bayshore District.

The company has filed an application for a general rate increase with the California Public Utilities Commission, which sets water rates across the state, and just held a public hearing last Friday at San Mateo City Hall to explain why the rate hike is necessary. The hearing also covered the Los Altos and Bear Gulch districts but only five people attended the meeting, said District Manager Tony Carrasco.

Cal Water wants to raise an additional $16.7 million from the Bayshore District over the next three years to pay for infrastructure improvements, to maintain employee health care and pensions and for operations and maintenance among others.

It intends to spend about $3.2 million on infrastructure improvements between now and 2016.

In 2014, the typical residential customer’s monthly bill will increase by $9.37 a month, according to Cal Water.

Currently, the typical residential household in the Bayshore District has an average monthly bill of $58.96 but that could climb to as much as $73.61 a month by 2016, according to Cal Water.

The CPUC, however, typically approves rates lower than what a company requests when it files for rate increases.

Cal Water is a private, employee-owned company whereas most residents in the county are served by municipal water districts with elected boards.

The municipal districts have been raising water rates for years. In 2012, the Estero Municipal Improvement District that serves Foster City raised its rates 30 percent because the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission raised its water price for the district by 41 percent to help pay for a $4.6 billion water system improvement program.

Local water providers in the county are all represented by the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, which negotiates for its 23-member agencies with the SFPUC on water rates. Water rates have risen across the board and will likely continue to despite conservation efforts due to the fixed cost of providing water.

Even if a customer does not use any water, the cost to provide it is fixed, according to Cal Water.

Across the state, Cal Water serves 23 districts and is asking the CPUC to OK an additional $92.8 million in revenue or about a 19.4 percent increase for 2014. In total, it wants to raise an additional $126 million from all of its customers in the state by 2016 which will raise rates for most by about 25 percent over the three-year period.

In the Bayshore District, infrastructure improvements that need to be made include:

• Replacement of electrical control facilities;

• Purchase of standby generators to allow continued service during power outages;

• Purchase of energy-monitoring equipment to improve efficiency and reduce costs in the long run;

• Construction of new Customer and Operations Center to improve operating efficiency;

• Purchase of property for and construction of additional wells to improve quality and supply;

• Replacement of six miles of aging water mains;

• Construction of five storage tanks totaling 3.6 million gallons to improve supply;

• Installation of pressure-reducing valves to serve lower zones when purchased water is not available;

• Coating of interior of 11 storage tanks to maintain life of the tanks;

• Additional water treatment; and

• Desalination investigation to determine feasibility of treating brackish water.

State law also mandates that water providers achieve a 20 percent reduction in per capita water use by the year 2020 which is why such a big emphasis has been put on conservation efforts.

The Bayshore District also covers Colma, portions of Daly City and portions of unincorporated San Mateo County.

silverfarb@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106


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