Cal Water proposes 21 percent rate increase


Local water users who must make significant cutbacks in their water use may have been expecting a drop in the water bill to match their conservation efforts.

That drop is likely to be smaller than expected because the California Water Service Company (Cal Water) has applied to raise rates by 21 percent, beginning in July. The hike would offset what the company calls "a significant increase" in the price of wholesale water from the San Francisco regional water system, the main source of water for the Peninsula.

In a letter sent to customers, the Bear Gulch Water District said the increased rates would be "a direct pass-through of the higher water prices" it must pay. The district covers Atherton, Portola Valley, most of Woodside, and parts of Menlo Park and Redwood City.

Monthly service charges would remain the same, except for customers with a 1-inch meter for fire sprinklers, who would see their service charge decrease from $40.03 a month to $20.29 a month.

Cal Water measures water in units of 100 cubic feet (CCF). Charges for the first 10 CCFs would be $5.91, up from $4.63; for the next 25 CCFs, $6.28, up from $4.92; for any CCFs over 35, $7.50, up from $5.88. Rates were last adjusted last August.

In addition, customers who use more than their allocated "water budget," which in most cases requires a 36 percent monthly decrease from 2013 monthly use, will see a surcharge of $10 per CCF unit added to their bills.

Cal Water has said that the average Bear Gulch customer used 23 CCF per month of water in 2014. Customers using that amount of water would see an increase of $30.48 per month, but will also be hit with a surcharge of $90 for going 9 CCF units over their water budgets. The total increase would be $120.48 a month.

The good news? If those average customers decrease their water use by the prescribed 36 percent to 14 units, their bill would be $26 less than it was in 2014.

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12 people like this
Posted by Davis
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Jun 8, 2015 at 1:02 pm

These rate increases exceed 27%, not 21%

18 people like this
Posted by CJ
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Jun 8, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Decrease of 36% even if you don't have a lawn, use sprinklers at any time of day and haven't been trying to cut your water usage for several years? Plus an increase of 27%? Plus a fine if you go over your allotted CCF? Waterway robbery.

12 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2015 at 2:41 pm

pearl is a registered user.

So, do I have this right? If we use less water, we are rewarded with a higher monthly water bill?!?

10 people like this
Posted by Oregon is looking good
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Jun 8, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Unreal. Here in the PV Ranch, we use very little water to begin with---no lawns, and the deer eat what few plants we plant that are native. Pretty sure the only way our family can cut our water usage is by not bathing.

Won't that be fun?

Meanwhile, Montecito properties continue to be gorgeously green, with rolling lawns, and the Stanford golf course looks lovely. Hmmm.

8 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 8, 2015 at 4:44 pm

pogo is a registered user.

"So, do I have this right? If we use less water, we are rewarded with a higher monthly water bill?!?"

Yes, Pearl, you are exactly right. Use less, pay more. It's the California way. By the way, if you drive less, they'll impose a road tax. They're gonna get you one way or the other.

Don't you recall that old Beatles song?

Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Palo Alto's water treatment plant cleans 5M+ gallons/day, and they can tell you how to have that recycled water trucked to your home. There's a solution...

8 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:25 am

The comment section is not a proper place to sell your product and services. Pay for an advertisement like other businesses.

2 people like this
Posted by water waster
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:07 am

that will solve the issue. the rich keep thinking there is no water shortage and it only applies to others--while they keep watering their lush green lawns, while the others of us can't afford to pay for water to drink. that is the politicians way--fix the problem (any problem) by taxing!! Lets tax the politicians!! maybe they will disappear. --just like our water is disappearing.

3 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:22 pm

pogo is a registered user.

We haven't built a major water transport, dam or reservoir in 35 years. During that time period, our population has doubled.

Taking shorter showers isn't going to cut it.

10 people like this
Posted by Weeds
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Visiting west Atherton today I saw no signs that anyone was cutting back on watering, and plenty of evidence that homeowners were continuing to maintain their gardens. In one home, planting thousands of new water-guzzling annuals. Those residents won't even blink at a few extra $thousand in the water bill. Meanwhile, my family's allocation is 6 CCF some months and our lawn is half dead already.

If our district continues to have high levels of consumption because the big properties refuse to cut back will the water district consider a new plan that doesn't include penalizing those of who have already conserved and use minimal amounts of water?

2 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Much fairer and conservation wise to do a 10% increase on 1st 10 units, on residential use, then 30% on next 10 units and 50% on everything over 20 units.

6 people like this
Posted by Sad
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Check out all the lush green front lawns on Olive Street and Bay Laurel Drive in Menlo
Likely a bunch of transplanted Easterners who could care less about being drought sensitive Californians(:
With privileges come responsibility to the greater community but that seems to have escaped their selfish mindset?

6 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 10, 2015 at 7:55 am

pogo is a registered user.

"transplanted Easterners..."

Seriously? That's the new evil group you wish to target? Easterners?

As if no native Californian could ever waste water and everyone who came here from east of the Mississippi - which probably describes MANY OF US - could never be conservation minded.


You win for the most absurd characterization. I actually liked it more when you told us that becoming vegans was our only salvation.

By the way, don't forget to take your umbrella today. It's raining.

Because as you keep telling us, WEATHER changes.

13 people like this
Posted by Time to slow development?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Clearly there is not enough water for current residents. So why are we building new hotels, apartment towers, and office buildings?

8 people like this
Posted by What a joke
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:40 pm

And the irony of it all is that Calwater explains that the rate increase will "help offset the revenue loss created by lower water consumption".

Clearly they need a better PR department.

Like this comment
Posted by menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 14, 2015 at 9:55 am

An aside - though fully relevant...

The new approach looked quite strange, so, we've spent some time studying the Public Works Recommendation on Water - link posted by Ms.Brundage – 5-28 or 29?. We will repost this to the City site and attend the ‘proposal discussion.’
In the actual text of the doc, it sounds much more like we're being notified of
an already approved new policy.

Please weigh in with the City!

This is what we came up with. Would love to hear if anyone else came up with something different-because we're hoping we're wrong.

The top tier users (large residences and commercial properties accounting for 18% of users and 71% of revenues) are getting a $0.75 (14%) rate cut while current tier 1 users are getting a $1.82 (67%) rate increase.

It is true that wholesale water prices have been increasing and Menlo Park needs to meet these costs -- rates need to go up. Why would any plan to cover higher costs cause rates to go down for anyone?

In the recommendation's own words, "The inclining tiered rate structure reflects the proportionate increase in costs associated with additional demand placed on the system and provides more conservation incentive as customers use more water." In the previous 4-tier system, significant differences (roughly 25% per tier) were implemented, indicating strong incentives and differences in costs. In the proposed 2-tier system, the initial difference is only $0.13 or 3%, which seems to indicate little difference in cost and a lack of incentive.

Furthermore, "The tier breakpoints are designed to provide a reasonable amount of water for efficient indoor and outdoor water use for a typical single family residential household [2.52 persons]." The bullet point immediately following states that tier 1 "is the minimum efficient domestic (indoor) water use for 2.5 person household." These statements differ because minimum is not the same as reasonable and efficient, and outdoor use is excluded. From the justification for the 6ccf cut point in the bullet appears to make the use impact very small. In fact, this segment accounts for 16% of use for 29% of users who are supposed to be motivated by a 3% savings (about 1/2% of revenue).

It would appear that there is little difference in the tiers.

Investigating further, the rates do go up year-over-year, tier 1 increases at only 5.4% while tier 2 increases at 14.5%. Even at this rate difference, tier 2 only catches up to its present rate after 2017. At that time, there is still only about a 20% difference in the rates.

Between lower rates at the high-end, much higher rates at the low-end, and an empty promise of a tier structure, this does not look like an honest proposal for rate increases to cover costs.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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