OMWD fights to keep water rates down

ENCINITAS — Water rate increases in wholesale water costs are beginning to trickle down, affecting residents throughout Southern California.
However, the Olivenhain Municipal Water District wants to make certain its customers know that while OMWD users rates increased by 9 percent Sept. 1, that hike represents one of the smallest rate increases in 2009 of any San Diego County retail water agency.
“While there is plenty of work yet to be done, including diversification of our water supply, I am proud to say that OMWD has tightened its belt,” said Mark Muir, OMWD’s board treasurer and representative to SDCWA’s board.
According to a water district release, the OMWD board of directors’ decision to minimize the effect of wholesale rate increases on consumers, by reducing other expenditures, is only the latest in a series of actions and policies taken by the board to protect customers. The county’s regional wholesalers, the San Diego County Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, have significantly raised wholesale water costs in response to drastic cuts in water exports from the State Water Project.
At its April 14 board meeting, the MWD’s board approved an average water rate increase of 19.7 percent, followed by SDCWA’s board approving on June 25 a rate increase of 18.1 percent. OMWD was the only retail agency in the county to vocally oppose both of these rate increases. Muir cast the lone dissenting vote at the time the SDCWA increase was voted upon.
Facing these increased costs, retail agencies throughout the county have increased water rates since June, some by as high as 21 percent. OMWD reported it was able to mitigate a significant portion of these increased costs through such efforts as a 4 percent reduction in its controllable costs, a reprioritization of its capital spending plan to delay noncritical capital improvement projects, and the cut of four full-time positions, thereby allowing for a more modest rate adjustment.
After considering customer feedback at an Aug. 26 rate hearing, OMWD’s board of directors approved the 9 percent adjustment as part of an ordinance permitting the district to pass through to customers uncontrollable costs through Sept. 1, 2014. These include purchased wholesale water increases, annual inflationary adjustments, and state seizure of property tax revenues through suspension of Proposition 1A.
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