The Santa Fe Irrigation District (SFID) board of directors met Thursday for a workshop meeting to discuss and receive customer input on how to best approach Governor Jerry Brown’s substantial water reduction mandate. The SFID is faced with a 35% cut in water (compared to 2013) by June.
The cuts are a consequence of Governor Brown’s executive order which was signed in April, 4 years after an official drought was first declared. While rainfall and snowpack are hitting historic lows, Rancho Santa Fe as well as the rest of the state are searching for solutions to the mounting water crisis.
Board President Michael Hogan addressed an overflowing meeting room and reflected on the precarious situation local water boards are now faced with.
“We are in unprecedented times” said Hogan. “It’s frustrating because the San Diego region has done a lot to reduce our water usage over the last 20 years”
According to Hogan, the region uses about the same amount of water as it did in 1992, but is now home to 600,000 more inhabitants.
During the meeting, Sudhir Pardiwala, Executive VP for Raftelis Financial Consultants, laid out the potential rate-change options that would help the irrigation district meet water reduction targets. Raftelis’ projections suggested a net loss of $3 million for the water district if the cutback targets are met, which would need to be offset by rate increases of about 30%. How the rate increases will be implemented is what the SFID board must decide next.
Mandatory water allocations, a drought surcharge, and penalties for overuse were on the table. One scenario would impose a “base water allocation,” or amount of water a customer could use without being penalized, at 15 hcf (hundred cubic feet) also called ‘units’ of water for a single family residence in tiers 2 and 3.
Fifteen units is about equal to 10,472 gallons – a typical amount for a household in San Diego per month, but far below the average for high-use customers who might exceed several hundred units per month.
Some cities like Santa Cruz have already imposed steep penalties for customers who exceed their allocated water use. They’ve implemented a penalty of $25 per hcf over 10 units and $50 per hcf over 11 units. SFID customers are accustomed to paying between $2-$4 per hcf.
The board will reconvene on May 21st to take a final vote on the proposed drought rates. The earliest a customer could see his/her water bill rise is in two months, shortly after the board’s July meeting. The SFID will send notices out to all customers once a rate change has been determined. A 45 day public comment period must follow before any changes are implemented, pursuant to proposition 218.