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Water rates could rise

Submitted by on 1, April 14, 2009 – 7:00 amNo Comment

Looks like the water emergency that brought restrictions on decorative ponds and sidewalk watering is coming to an end, folks (hat tip to Mother Nature). And we did such a good job conserving water that … the East Bay Municipal Utility District board is looking to raise our rates 7.5 percent for each of the next two years.

Even though we saved less water than the district hoped, it was enough to create a $10 million to $12 million budget hole, according to the Contra Costa Times. The district is also out about $18 million in hookup fees due to the fact that there’s no construction happening right now.

“We’re selling less water because of the drought. We’ve been asking people to conserve,” Board President Doug Linney told The Island.

The board, at its budget workshop this morning, will be considering increases of 8.7 percent for single family residences as of July 1, and another 7.5 percent for the following year. While they’re on it, they’ll also be considering raising wastewater collection rates 5 percent for each of the next two years, and increasing a smattering of fees. (They’ll discuss adding a new one, too, to cover the use of a backup water system off the Sacramento River to be ready in 2010.)

East Bay MUD spokeswoman Andrea Pook said the increases would translate to an additional $2.88 a month for water and 62 cents for wastewater collection for the average residential customer this year.

The board will finalize any decisions it makes on June 9.

On a slightly more positive note, it looks like the water emergency the district declared last year may be coming to an end. We’re tantalizingly close to the 450,000 acre-feet of water we need to beg off rationing for the year. But it sounds like the board has to decide when the emergency will end (options are July or October). Per an East Bay MUD staff report:

Option 1 ends the water shortage emergency and drought rates and charges for billing periods beginning July 1, 2009. This alternative tells customers their conservation efforts and the FY09 mandatory rationing helped pull the District out of the drought emergency. If customers continue to conserve voluntarily during the summer, this alternative will collect less water revenue than the amount budgeted.

Option 2 ends the drought emergency and current drought rate structure for billing periods beginning October 1, 2009 (updating the base on which drought rates are calculated from the FY09 to the FY10 budget-related new rates as of July 1, 2009). This alternative continues mandatory rationing for the first three months of FY10, a period in which many other water agencies will have similar water restrictions and drought rate structures in place. It tells customers the District is concerned about conserving water in the event of another dry year and encourages continued intensive conservation to maximize end of year storage. This alternative is likely to meet our FY10 revenue target during those months and replenish the contingency and rate stabilization reserve to the $45.2 million policy target level.

Calling off the emergency means the end of surcharges on excess water use and of mandatory rationing – temporarily, at least. District staff anticipate a potentially serious water shortage next year if it’s really, really dry.

The workshops begin at 8:30 a.m. today at East Bay MUD’s offices, at 375 11th Street in Oakland.

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