San Diego – Higher Water Bills Likely

Whenever drought hits, Californians invariably do their part to save water. They cut back on watering lawns, shorten showers and fix leaks.

This conservation ethic has taken hold quickly during the current drought. Ratepayers in San Diego County and elsewhere in the state are meeting or often significantly exceeding their state-mandated reduction.

Now for the unpleasant but predictable sequel. As water use goes down, the rates charged are going up. And many of those good citizens, who are dutifully pitching in for the public good, are outraged. But the retail water agencies, who directly supply residential, business and agricultural customers, say they have little choice.

The financial logic is inexorable. If you sell less of something, to balance the budget you must either cut costs, raise the price, or a combination of both, the agencies say.

And with many costs fixed, such as bond payments for capital expenditures and the cost of maintenance, some kind of rate increase is nearly inevitable. Water agencies often cushion the blow by drawing from a rate stabilization fund, but that fund is also paid for with ratepayer money.

Last Monday, San Diego city officials presented a proposal to raise rates by about 17 percent next year. That didn’t go over well with some members of the public.

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