OCEANSIDE— City Council unanimously approved increased water and wastewater rates Dec. 20. There was no discussion prior to the vote of approval. Two weeks earlier numerous speakers addressed City Council about rate increases, and the city received more than a dozen letters of protest.
Most Dec. 6 speakers shared their frustration over decreasing their water use and still seeing a rise in rates. Residents also criticized the high cost of fixed rates, and not having adjustable rates for low-income households.
“People are fed up,” Dana Corso, president of ACTION citizen’s group, said. “We cut back water uses and the rate goes up again. This has to stop.”
Council members sympathized with residents, but said increases are necessary.
“We have to maintain the system, we still have to pay the bill,” Councilman Jerry Kern said.
Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery said he shares residents’ concerns about the burden increases put on low-income customers, and asked city staff to look into some way rates can be adjusted to reflect household incomes.
Farmers who spoke were supportive of city efforts to keep rates as low as possible. The city has worked to keep agriculture water rates down and is pursuing efforts to bring recycled water to farmers within five years.
“I dislike rate increases, but dislike a bankrupt water district more,” Mike Mellano, an Oceanside commercial farmer, said.
Come Feb. 1, 2018, city water bills will reflect increases in the Metropolitan Water District treated water, fixed charge and readiness to serve charge, and higher San Diego County Water Authority access charge.
City staff said bill increases are intended to recover costs of more expensive wholesale water and fund city waterline and sewer line repairs and upgrades, which keep the system viable. “We’re fixing pipes before they break, pipes that break cost more,” city staff said. “We’re doing a very good job of eliminating spills.”
The city has been able to absorb and offset some of the 3.3 percent increase. Overall water bills will increase to 2.75 percent. Wastewater bills will see a 2 percent increase.
Customers are billed on fixed-meter charges, amount of water used and pass-through charges from the Water District and Water Authority.
A single-family residence with a 5/8-inch meter that uses 10 units of water a month will see a $1.86 monthly increase. The same family will have a 55 cent monthly decrease in its wastewater bill.
The city continues to make strides to increase its local water supply to 50 percent by 2030, and gain more control of future water costs. City efforts include treating water, recycling water and purchasing desalinated water. Continued efforts help offset purchased water costs which are expected to increase by 4 percent annually.
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez praised city staff for continuing to diversify local water sources.
“Unfortunately we still have to pay agencies involved in getting water to Oceanside,” Sanchez said.
New charges will go into effect for water use beginning Jan. 1, 2018.