Water rates are projected to increase across the board in the next five years as the city of Santa Monica looks for ways to maintain its water system while trying to reduce its reliance on imported water.
Rates are adjusted every five years and a recently released study for 2020-2024 recommends a 20 percent increase for the first year followed by an 18 percent increase the second year and a 14 percent increase per year the following three
The rates would equate to an estimated $36 increase for an average single-family home every two months, an estimated $48 increase for an average 8-unit multifamily residential building (approximate increase of $6 per unit) and an estimated $87 increase for the average commercial bill.
According to the study, Santa Monica’s current rates are low compared to several neighboring agencies. If adopted, the new rates would put Santa Monica bills above Anaheim, Orange, Huntington Beach and Torrance but below Long Beach, Pasadena, Beverly Hills, Culver City and Los Angeles.
The report said increases are necessary to cover the cost of investing in new water projects, cover staff costs for the current system, replace aging equipment, continue maintenance on old pipes and guarantee funding reserves necessary for smooth operation of the water service.
“Water Fund expenditures over the five-year period from FY 2018-19 through FY 2022-23 are projected to average $36 million per year,” said the study. “This excludes one-time capital improvement projects (e.g., water self-sufficiency projects) that are financed over a 30-year period and the Olympic Well Field Restoration, which is paid for through non-ratepayer settlement funds. Without a rate adjustment, the Water Fund would have a deficit of approximately $12.4 million per year on average over the five-year period.”
The water fund lost about a million dollars in the previous five years.
The wastewater fund lost about $5 million over the same time frame and is projected to lose another $5 million in the coming years without the rate increase. The report recommends a 10 percent increase in wastewater rates for the first four years followed by a 3 percent increase in the fifth year.
The rates will come before Council at a hearing on January 28, but the City will host two open house events for residents and local businesses to learn about proposed adjustments to water and wastewater rates in the coming weeks.
The first will be held on Nov. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Santa Monica Main Library, 601 Santa Monica Blvd. and the second will be Nov. 18 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Virginia Avenue Park’s Thelma Terry Building, 2200 Virginia Ave.
For additional information about the proposed water and wastewater rates, visit santamonica.gov/waterrates.