Water News…from the desk of Marlene King

Update from the Feb. 18th Board Meeting:  The draft Cost of Service Study (COSS) was finally presented to the Board.  The COSS is the official document which prompts a Prop. 218 hearing: a requirement when water rate hikes are proposed.  The COSS proposes rate hikes of 9%, 9%, and 9% for years 2016 – 2018.  However, depending on meter size and water usage, rate adjustments will be either lower or higher than 9%. 

The draft COSS document can be accessed by using the link at the end of this article; page 224 takes you to Table 7 – 1: Single Family Bill Impacts (3/4” Meter).  As most properties in Rancho Santa Fe have larger than ¾” meters, and I requested staff add similar bill impact charts for customers with 1” meters; 1 ½” meters, and 2” meters.  The final COSS document will be received and filed at the March 17th Board meeting, and should be available to the public on the website March 11th under the 3/17/16 Board agenda.  The required Prop. 218 notice will be mailed April 1st.  Written comments and/or protests will be accepted from April 4 – May 18, 2016.  The regular May 19th Board meeting, beginning at 8:30 am, will hold the public hearing to consider the rate proposal.  June 1, 2016 is the target implementation date for any change in rate structure or water rates. 

January’s Water Use was down 25%:  January 2016 reduction was 25% from the SWRCB requirement of 36%.  The 4.4 inches of rainfall in early January has been, to date, our only local evidence of El Nino.  With January and February temperatures trending much higher than average, please continue to carefully monitor your outdoor irrigation usage and use only what you need.  The District turned in the paperwork to the SWRCB to request that our 36% reduction requirement be lowered to 28%, in recognition of the Carlsbad Desalination Plant coming on-line.  It is anticipated that reductions granted by SWRCB will not officially take effect until April 2016. 

How will the COSS impact you?  1.)  Bi-monthly fixed meter fees increase because the San Diego County Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District fixed charges that are passed along to the S.F.I.D. will be now passed-through to the fixed meter charges.  (Both MWD and SDCWA pass through charges re-adjust the beginning of each calendar year, therefore fixed meter charges are proposed to adjust at that time.)  2.)  Currently, Single Family water charges are based on three tiers:   0-15 units ($2.70); 16 – 300 units ($3.84); and over 300 units ($4.39).    Proposed rates have four tiers:  0 – 15 units ($2.09); 16 – 37 units ($2.52); 38 – 165 units ($4.54); and over 165 units ($5.31).  3.) The COSS also proposes establishing Water Demand Reduction Rates.  These would be implemented if the Board determined it was necessary to achieve water demand reduction due to continued drought or, for example, an earthquake damaging pipelines.  The Board would first hold a public hearing before considering implementation of Water Demand Reduction Rates. 

San Diego County Water Authority letter to the State Water Resources Control Board:   Santa Fe Irrigation District is a member of the San Diego County Water Authority, and a percentage of your bi-monthly charges fund Water Authority projects specifically designed to make our region more water independent:  the Carlsbad Desalination Plant; the Imperial Valley water transfers program; and increased reservoir storage in the County, among others. 

The San Diego County Water Authority wrote an excellent letter to the SWRCB on 1/28/16 which had dual purposes: official comment on the State Board’s mid-term adjustment of emergency water reduction percentages, and, in Attachment “A”, beginning to establish a legal case that the SWRCB has overreached its authority.  As a native Californian, I found this letter to be wonderful advocacy on behalf of our region’s rate-payers, and a fascinating view into California’s intricate history of water rights. While Mark Twain did not say, “Whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting”, reading Attachment “A” illustrates the truism of the expression.  (Click on the link, pages 152 – 162.)


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