In five years, the average homeowner in Santa Monica could be paying $60 more per month for water and wastewater.

City Council will vote Tuesday whether to hike water and wastewater rates to fund infrastructure projects that will wean Santa Monica off of imported water by 2023. If the council approves the proposed five-year rate structure, water rates will rise by 20% in the first year, 18% in the second year and by 14% annually for the following three years. Wastewater rates will increase by 10% annually for the first four years and by 3% in the fifth year.

Starting this year, the average single-family home will pay $18 more per month for both services. The bill for an eight-unit apartment building will increase by $24 and the typical commercial customer will pay an additional $43. (All customers are billed bimonthly.)

The low-income subsidy, which reduces the water rate by $1 per hundred cubic feet, would remain in place. The current drought rate structure would also go into effect in the event of a statewide drought mandate.

The rate increases will finance almost $42 million in projects that will allow Santa Monica to stop importing water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which officials say will keep costs down in the long term and shield the city from the effects of droughts.

The rate structure also reflects the rising cost of regular maintenance, said Sunny Wang, the city’s water resources manager. Five years ago, it cost $2 million to replace two miles of pipe. Now, it costs $6 million, largely because of higher construction costs.

Currently, single-family households pay an average of $55 per month for just water, while equivalent customers in Beverly Hills, Culver City and Los Angeles pay between $60 and $90.

The typical Santa Monica homeowner will pay $115 by 2024 under the proposed rate structure, but Wang said neighboring cities will also have to raise rates.

Los Angeles is embarking on water self-sufficiency infrastructure projects of its own, he said. Beverly Hills will continue to import all of its water from the Metropolitan Water District, which is planning to build a new tunnel to channel water from Northern California.

Customers will see those expensive infrastructure projects reflected in their water bills, Wang said. Climate change is also threatening MWD’s water sources and the utility could be forced to ration water by the mid-2020s.

Wang said Santa Monicans will pay less for water in the long run after the city completes its water self-sufficiency projects. Local groundwater costs $900 per acre-foot, while imported water costs $1,200 per acre-foot.

“That’s why we want to invest in local resources — it’s cheaper,” Wang said. “You have to have an upfront investment, but we’ll start seeing benefits in five to six years.”

City Council will meet Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the Civic Center East Wing, 1855 Main St.

madeleine@smdp.com

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  1. What the City of Santa Monica is not taking into consideration is the fact that the ground waters are being depleted, and because of continued growth, are not able to be replenished. So there are only so many years left before the groundwater is gone. Then what? It seems to be smarter to continue bringing in water from areas where nature continues to resupply itself with rain, like Northern California, then to completely deplete the underground waters with continued growth. Eventually, there will be so much growth that there just isn’t going to be more water for more growth. It would be better to stop growth before it gets to the critical stage.

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