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San Diego Water Rates Could Go Up By Almost 4 Percent Next Year

Photo caption:

Photo credit: San Diego County Water Authority

The San Diego County Water Authority has been upgrading its existing water storage facilities in an effort to decrease reliance on the Metropolitan Water Authority. This photo shows construction at the San Vicente Dam to remove the right crest of the dam to increase the size of the reservoir, November 2009.

The San Diego County Water Authority announced that it is preparing to raise water rates as high as 3.8 percent for next year.

The San Diego County Water Authority announced Monday that it is preparing to raise water rates as high as 3.8 percent for next year.

The increases proposed by staff would be 2.9 percent or 3.8 percent for untreated water, and 2.6 percent or 3.3 percent for treated water. The actual figures would vary between member agencies.

The percentage increase is smaller than from earlier this decade, said Sandy Kerl, the Water Authority's deputy general manager. Kerl said rates jumped by double-digit percentages in 2010 and 2011.

Kerl said the rate proposal also includes for the first time the cost of water from the Carlsbad desalination plant. That water is twice as expensive as imported water.

"It is a drought-proof supply of water. And any new increment of supply, meaning any new source, that provides that reliability is in that same ballpark, cost wise," Kerl said.

The water authority, which is fighting the MWD in court over its wholesale rate structure, said the Metropolitan Water District is responsible for 74 percent of its water costs.

The rate plan does not include any potential rebates from the rate case being argued in the courts. If the water authority prevails, that could send millions of dollars back to San Diego water customers.

The proposal will go before the agency's board of directors on Thursday but won't be voted on until after a public hearing scheduled for June 26.

The SDCWA receives water from the MWD, the primary wholesaler for the region, and distributes it to local agencies like the city of San Diego or Helix Water District. It's those local agencies that deliver water to residential and commercial customers.

"These proposed rates reflect the cost of investing in a safe and reliable water supply for San Diego County,'' said Maureen Stapleton, general manager of the SDCWA. "That strategy has worked well to help us avoid the worst impacts of the current drought, and it will continue to protect our region's economic health and quality of life.''

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