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San Diego City Approves Another Water Rate Increase

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Aired 1/25/11

San Diego city residents will see another water rate increase this spring. The city council approved the increase six to two, in spite of heated opposition.

San Diego city residents will see another water rate increase this spring. The city council approved the increase six to two, in spite of heated opposition.

This latest increase means city water bills will have risen 67 percent in three years. Angry residents told the council this was no way to reward their conservation efforts.

Cathy Evans Calderwood said people on fixed incomes should at least be able to get exemptions such as those provided by San Diego Gas and Electric.

"You can't live without water," she said, "It's not discretionary."

The council laid the blame for the rate hike on the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles. MWD supplies San Diego with almost 90 percent of its water and has raised the cost this year by $25 million.

Maureen Stapleton of the County Water Authority said her agency is already suing the MWD for unfairly high water rates.

"They're ripping us off then!" Council President Tony Young said. "That's a problem!"

New councilwoman Lorie Zapf suggested the city request a state audit of MWD'S personnel costs and capital spending. She also wants an independent rate oversight committee to evaluate the price MWD charges.

Council members Carl DeMaio and Marti Emerald opposed the increase. DeMaio orchestrated a protest that brought in a total of more than 13,000 letters. However, more than 130,000 city water customers would have had to send in protests to block the rate increase. DeMaio focused on the need to trim the city water department's labor costs.

Emerald said the city should spare those on fixed incomes by using water department reserves of $35 million to cover the increase.

However, the council approved the rate hike, saying using those reserves would jeopardize the city's mandated water upgrades in the future.

Another six percent increase is in the works next year, to cover another round of cost increases already approved by MWD.

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