Higher water rates proposed

Escalating wholesale water costs cited as reason for increase under two-tier water billing system.

October 14, 2010|By Barbara Diamond,

Laguna Beach County Water District' s customers will start paying more for their water in each of the next four years, if staggered increases are approved by the Board of Directors.

The district commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend approval by the board of directors of rate hikes based on increases in the cost of imported water, on which the district is wholly dependent. Prudent water users will be the least affected customers, district officials said.

"Something like 70% of our customers won't see much of an increase," district General Manager Renae Hinchey told the handful of residents, including Councilwoman Jane Egly, who attended the meeting.


The district will feel a greater pinch than its customers,

Metropolitan Water District of Orange County, the district's wholesaler, is raising the cost of water delivered to Laguna Beach by 7.5% in 2011 and again in 2012, 7% in 2013 and 3% in both 2014 and 2015. Multi-year rate increases recommended by the commission go only to 2014.

The typical single-family residence, whose water usage falls within the parameters of Tier One Water Budget rates, will see a $3.39 increase in their bi-monthly service charge and a 33 cent increase per unit of water over the span of years recommended by the commissioners.

"Our typical customer uses about 24 units per billing cycle," said Christopher Regan, district assistant general manager.

The water budget per household is based on variables that include size of the property and the number of residents, three considered typical. Customers can request a review of their water budget by calling Regan or customer service at (949) 494-1041.

Water rates for Tier One users are basically the cost of getting the water from the wholesaler, said Brian Jewett, the consultant hired by the district to conduct a water rate and water budget study.

And tap water is one of the biggest bargains around, he said, about a half cent a gallon.

Tier Two customers, whose usage is deemed inefficient, are billed at a higher rate to encourage water conservation and to pay for measures taken by the district to reduce consumption. Their rate will increase from $5.96 per unit to $6.45 per unit.

Total bills depend on how much water is used. Tier One customers who exceed their budget will be charged at the Tier Two rate for the overage.

Basically, the two-tier system means that whoever turns on the tap for however long pays the price.

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