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Increased water rates reflect rising cost

RANCHO SANTA FE — Mike Bardin, general manager of the Santa Fe Irrigation District, went before the Association at its Nov. 4 meeting to explain its decision to raise water rates.
“The cost of water is going through the roof,” he said. “The cost of wholesale water has gone up 65 percent in the last three years.”
He said every other water district in the area is facing the same dilemma.
“The cost of water we buy, which is 70 percent of what we use, is coming from somewhere else and the cost is passed on to customers,” Bardin said.
The irrigation district buys water wholesale from the San Diego Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water Authority. The cost to the member agencies, including the Santa Fe Irrigation District, will increase more than 12 percent.
In 2005 the cost per acre foot was $485. By January 2013, the cost will be $1,170 per acre foot, he said.
“Availability is an issue,” he said.
“We get most of our water from the Colorado River and the Bay Delta,” he said.
In the past, California has used a portion of Arizona’s water to meet its needs.
“Arizona has grown and wants their share as does Nevada,” he said.
Because the wholesale water rates are rising, so will the rate to Rancho Santa Fe consumers.
He said local water officials plan to raise the rates 12 percent in 2011, 2012 and 2013, unless the district’s water suppliers raise the rates more, then local water officials will pass on that rate to the consumers, whatever it is, he said.
The average water user’s bill of about $200 will increase by about $66 at the end of three years.
In comparison to other water districts in the area, he said Rancho Santa Fe has fallen on the low side of the middle, he said.
He said the district has already tightened its belt considerably by putting off $6 million capital improvements, eliminating some positions and not filling others.
The raise in rates will help the district maintain a balance between buying water and maintaining and upgrading its infrastructure, he said. He said many of its pipes are getting quite old and he wants to avoid pipe breaks.
He said it is important to maintain a healthy balance in its accounts because it is a stand-alone agency.
“There is no safety net for us,” he said.
The water district held a public hearing about the raise at its Oct. 21 meeting. The board took 12 comments from community members who were concerned of another increase during the current economy.
No action was taken at the meeting and the issue was tabled until the next meeting of the board set for Nov. 18.
The raises would be implemented by 12 percent increases for three years and the first could go into effect on Jan. 1.
Despite the difficulties, he said the water district is still doing a great job for the citizens of Rancho Santa Fe, Bardin said.
The public is welcome to attend the Nov. 18 meeting, but the public comment portion of the issue is closed.
To learn more about the irrigation district, call (858) 756-2424.

1 comment

K. Braun November 22, 2010 at 11:19 am

Yes, wholesale prices from the Metropolitan Water District and Water Authority are going up, but that does not justify the proposed SFID rate increase. The wholesale cost of imported water is only one component of the water district’s operating costs. The City of San Diego is subject to the same price increase as SFID, and the 12% wholesale increase will result in a 5.5% rate increase to San Diego customers. The resulting SFID rate increase necessary to cover the wholesale cost increase should be even less, since the City of San Diego imports 90% of its water, and SFID only imports about 70%. The SFID rate increase is primarily to cover the cost of facility improvement projects, which the district has chosen to fund fully from a ratepayer increase. Most water districts will finance long-term facility improvements to spread the costs out over many years, and minimize the impact the ratepayers. SFID board members chose not to acquire bond financing for their planned improvements, and that is the main reason the rate increase is so large. There are undoubtedly other reasons for the increase, which by law have to be disclosed in the Prop 218 notice for the rate increase. Blaming the Water Authority for such a large increase is not being honest.

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