The City of Santa Monica is preparing to establish new water rates for the next five years and officials will be soliciting public input into new rates as early as this month.

2019 is the last of the current five-year rate structure approved by Council in 2015 and Council adopted a 9 percent increase this year.

In 2015, the City projected water rates would rise nine percent each year to fund water self-sufficiency projects, but rates only rose five percent in 2016, 2017 and 2018 because the City received more revenue from water sales than expected and had to delay some projects.

Despite a cumulative 33 percent increase over the last five years, Santa Monicans are still paying less for water than their neighbors in Los Angeles, Culver City or Beverly Hills. The average Los Angeles family pays $176 per month for water, while a family in Santa Monica pays $105 in 2019.

Santa Monica has long sought to wean itself off of water imported from Los Angeles and have a goal of self-sufficiency by 2023 via its Sustainable Water Master Plan (SWMP).

Staff said self sufficiency has several benefits including long-term cost savings, more sustainable water sources and a reduction in the amount of energy required to provide water.

The City’s three-fold approach to reducing imported water is to continue to promote efforts to permanently reduce water demand, develop drought-resistant water sources and expand local groundwater production with sustainable yield limits.

The anticipated cost to implement the SWMP components required to meet water self-sufficiency by 2023 is approximately $38 million in capital investments to increase local water supplies,” said a city report on the upcoming rates. “These capital investments include expanding the treatment capacity of the City’s existing Arcadia Water Treatment Plant (WTP), implementation of production efficiency enhancements, and acquiring an additional groundwater well to enhance resiliency. The required capital investments for the City to achieve water self-sufficiency by 2023 are a key consideration in the rate study to ensure adequate funds are available to support these projects and allow staff to maintain high quality service for the community.”

Staff are currently working on to establish the rates for the next five years “with due consideration given to ratepayers and the financial viability of the water and wastewater enterprise funds.”

Outreach efforts on the upcoming rate structure is scheduled to begin immediately. Council will begin discussion of the proposals in July of this year with discussions continuing through October before final adoption in December.

The target audiences for the rate study public outreach effort include ratepayers, civic/business groups, neighborhood associations, faith-based organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and multicultural organizations,” said the report. “The public outreach efforts are intended to increase public awareness and understanding of the City’s water and wastewater infrastructure and the rate adoption process in advance of presenting rate recommendations to City Council and the mailing of Proposition 218 notices to customers. Planned public outreach efforts include attending neighborhood and civic/business group meetings, developing fact sheets, and distributing notifications and soliciting public comments through the Proposition 218 process.”

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