I have always been against raising fees during my seven years on Oceanside City Council. I still hold this position and believe city government needs to be more efficient and not raise fees. Because of the critical water shortage in California, significant increases in water rates by the San Diego County Water Association, or SDCWA, and Metropolitan Water District, or MWD, will be levied against cities which will be passed down to citizens.
On Aug. 20 the Oceanside City Council had a public workshop to discuss future water rates. The city’s recommended minimum monthly increase in water rates for a typical single family was $6.34 and sewage rates of $4.96; for a total of $11.30. The policy driven rates by SDCWA and MWD is $25.25. There is big difference between what SDCWA/MWD want and what is being recommended by city staff.
Very few citizens attended the Aug. 20 workshop. However, city staff did a very informative presentation supported by representatives from the SDCWA and MWD. In the discussions the key issues driving the rising cost of water are:
— Fixed cost for infrastructure throughout the state. Regardless of the amount of water that residents use; there is an ongoing cost for the building and maintaining of infrastructure.
— Negative fiscal impact for conserving. This was really a hard issue. Rates will increase, the more we conserve. Huh? So why conserve? Because there is a shortage of water, we all need to conserve. However, the cost of the infrastructure will still have to be paid. More gallons used, less “carrying cost” for infrastructure. Fewer gallons used, more “carrying cost” for infrastructure. This was one of the hardest issues to define.
— How California moves water. The impact of the Delta in Northern/Central California is limiting the amount of water moving to Southern California. We are only allowed by law to pump water three months of the year without restrictions because of the environmental impacts upon the fisheries for Salmon, Delta Smelt and Longfin Smelt.
— California drought. In wet months, we can pump 1,886,000 acre feet. However, in critical dry months we can only pump 598,000 acre feet — a significant reduction.
There is good news. San Diego’s leadership started in the 1990s to diversify the sources of our water. In 1991, 95 percent of the water came from MWD. However, in 2010, 62 percent comes from the MWD and in 2020 it is projected that 29 percent will come from the MWD. This will lessen the impact of Northern and Central California on San Diego.
I agree that it is hard to fathom any fee increase this year in this economy. I also see in the future more increases because of the infrastructure cost to address the Delta. Because this is a complex issue, I recommended and was supported by council members Kern and Feller to hold an additional Town Hall Meeting to discuss our water rates. I implore you to take the time to make this Town Hall Meeting. Water is one of the issues we all have to address; let’s have a discussion.