Cal Water wants big price hike in 2014

Utility company asks to raise monthly rates by almost $19

Residents will pay almost $19 more a month for water starting in 2014, if the state public utilities commission approves the California Water Service Company's (Cal Water) request.

The cost would rise again, by smaller amounts, in 2015 and 2018, according to a press release from Cal Water issued July 12.

The utility provides water to 18,800 addresses in Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside. The Menlo Park Municipal Water Department, operated by the city, serves Sharon Heights and portions of town east of El Camino Real.

Cal Water said the 15.2 percent hike was needed to cover rising operational and maintenance expenses in the face of decreasing water sales revenue.

"Unfortunately, water costs are rising, not just here, but throughout the country. Many of them -- such as costs for materials, water production, and water treatment -- are increasing faster than the rate of inflation," said Cal Water Bear Gulch District Manager Tony Carrasco in a written statement.

"Also, water use is going down, and water utilities have a lot of fixed costs that stay the same regardless of how much water customers use. That results in higher per-unit water costs. The good news is, some variable costs decrease when customers use less water, and those cost decreases are factored in. And conservation can save customers money in the long-term by enabling us to avoid having to invest in new sources of supply to meet higher demand."

According to Cal Water, it also wants to upgrade the water system infrastructure with six miles of new water mains, two pump station reconstructions, an emergency generator,and other features.

The California Public Utilities Commission will review the request during the next 18 months. Cal Water last asked for an increase in 2009; that 12.4 percent hike took effect last year.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Similar to Santa Clara Water District -- the District told residents to reduce water consumption which they did then the District added an extra fee to make up for the lack of revenue from reduced water usage.

These agencies should plan ahead and allocate funds for future infrastructure upgrades, etc. not do a 15.2% hike next year to pay for everything. We were just billed to do a Hetch Hetchy upgrade.

Like this comment
Posted by My2Bits
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Infra structure maintenance and upgrades benefit all of us, so I don't mind adjusting the fees to cover for those as long as the work gets done and the cash isn't sunk into employee pensions and worker's comp claims. However - we work really hard to reduce our water consumption and there are related expenses such as modifying the landscaping around our home that have swamped any savings we have with reduced water bills. Once again (like with the new trash management programs) we are punished financially for doing the right thing for the environment because the utility providers have not restructured their systems to plan for for reduced use. Silly! Yes, we have great water and still at affordable rates when compared with other countries. Seriously folks - are the parks, pools and golf courses assessed properly? Have you looked at bringing apartment complexes and high density housing into line before you ding home owners?

Like this comment
Posted by Steve Taffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm

One need only follow current U.S. and world news stories in the to know that water as we've known it is undergoing fundamental change. Rate hikes, to the extent that they encourage conservation and do not disproportionately hurt the poor, are to be encouraged. We want to be managing water resources with a minimum of a 10 year window, better yet a 25 to 50 year window. It's better to raise rates now to encourage conservation, fix inefficient infrastructure, and enforce regulations aimed at water polluters. The U.N. declared water as a universal human right (with the U.S. shamefully abstaining from the vote), and anyone with a seventh grade science course knows the connection we share with the rest of the world in the water cycle. Better we act now on behalf of ourselves and our children than have to say "oops" later.

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