Thursday, July 23, 2015

• 27% Hike In Water Rates

This afternoon a full house attended a rate increase meeting at the water district.

It was a lively meeting and the first half of it was both informative (though I'd actually heard it all before, plus if you read the color mailers you already heard it too) and entertaining. I enjoyed the 18 other public speakers and the way the crowd got into it with applause after a point was made that they agreed with.
You can see EVMWD Board Member George Cambero on the left side of the frame.

That part took about 90 mins and there was a break while the board members went in-camera to count the official protests. Once they reconvened each of the directors did their best to answer the questions posed by the public speakers. (Funny how I didn't get an answer as to why EVMWD is going to charge $2.25 for the same thing that Temescal Water Company charges $1.16 for).

That part dragged on so long that it put my 3 hour video camera battery to sleep with half an hour left to go, though I found it to be interesting.

Before relating to you some of the highlights, let me skip to the end... it was a 5-0 vote to raise your rates, even in tier 1, by 27%. The rates will be going up as of the first of August and you'll be seeing them in your September bill.

A lot was made about Prop 218. It has to do with how an entity, like the water district, can raise rates.

Let me cut through the bovine excreta and tell you what Prop 218 appears to me as (at least the way it affects rate increases in such instances).

It seems that, once upon a time the people were fed up with rate increases that were getting done on the sly, and Prop 218 is a sop to keep the masses quiet (if there are teeth in it I can't find them). On the surface Prop 218 looks like it's telling them big faceless companies that they have to run it by the public before ramming a rate increase down our throats... but in practice it's just another formality that the people can't overcome.

"How's that?" you ask?

Well, if we the people had rallied together, Prop 218 says we could have stopped the rate increase.

One fly in the ointment... we needed 50% +1 of the rate payers to make that happen. I heard different numbers bandied about and the Water District's rep said that number would be around 21,500 letters of protest would have needed to be mailed in.

But don't be impressed yet. Though I didn't hang around long enough to get this confirmed, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that means even if my wife and I had EACH sent in a letter, it still would have only counted as ONE rate payer... since we only receive one bill between the two of us.

With apologies to Dr. Seuss.

Let's imagine how that would work in real life. 

Well, in the 2014 governor's election Riverside County only managed to get 40.12% to the polls, and wanna guess how many people bothered to write in on this issue?

Drum Roll Please........

If you said 37 official protest letters, YOU WON! 

And as an added bonus, they counted the 19 of us that spoke out too... pushing the total to 56 protests... and we only fell about 21,445 shy of the magic number. Derpy-Doo!

A look at the dais at EVMWD.

A few other things of note

  • There is a plan in the works to credit up to $10 a month for those that apply and are already in the CARE program from the other utilities.
  • When speaking, I reminded the board members that the $10,000 per day fine ($300k per month) pales in comparison to what a 27% increase across the board looks like.
  • George Cambero wanted to make it clear that this wasn't breaking his campaign promise of NOT voting for a rate increase... unless he had to... and he had to.
  • HOA's can't prohibit you from installing drought tolerant landscaping. Nor can they fine you for allowing your lawn to turn brown. (if they try it, contact the water district)
  • They're discussing using Lake Elsinore as a reservoir.
  • For all the talks of fines, no fines have been issued.
  • Andy Morris said that the drought surcharge will come off after the drought is over. Though there was no establishment of what criteria would have to be met to make that determination. I guess we're at Governor Brown's mercy... to be followed by 8 years of Gavin Newsome (you and I both know he'll be the next governor, no need to pretend otherwise).
  • President of the Water Board Phil Williams said, "If we could wave a magic wand, and give you free water, we would." (Hey Mr. President, that kind of reminds me of the one about if the queen had a package... she'd be the king.)
  • Mr Williams also said, "I promise you I'll be the first to propose a rollback on the surcharge when the drought is over.

In short, or at least the way I see it, the rates are going up because they are a private company and they have a bottom line to worry about. On the one hand they are glad that we have become such good water conservationists, but that means they're selling less water... and selling less water means they're bringing in less revenue. So, we will be paying for more and getting less to make up the difference.

In all fairness, there really isn't much they could do about it. A lot was made about how EVMWD is still approving new development by issuing Will Serve Letters to builders. As it was stated, the builders are well represented in Sacramento and our area relies heavily on the construction industry. If they put a moratorium up, they would have the various cities, the builders and Sacramento raining down the fires of hell on them. 

I appreciated their professionalism, and if you have questions call your board member... I'm sure they'd be happy to discuss your concerns. In the meantime, conserve like you mean it, of get ready to trade in your IRA to pay your next bill.
•      •       

Elwood: What kind of music do you usually have here?
Barmaid: Oh, we got both kinds, we got country and western. Bob's County Bunker in The Blues Brothers 


  1. It is ridiculous that we already pay high rates and are going to pay even more for our water. This is a necessity and I for one don't like the concept that we are getting dinged because we did cut back and they need more money because we cut back. Seems a bit contrived to me. I am very disappointed in the 5-0 vote to gouge us more. The water district services a lot of people who are on fixed budgets they(me too) don't have an extra 27%, especially not during a time when gas prices are soaring. sheila

    1. If I was hearing correctly, Andy Morris did say he'd like to see about the surcharges in tier one be addressed. I don't know if that meant exempting them from the drought surcharges, having reduced surcharges or what since they voted before "addressing" it.

  2. I agree with you! I'm disgusted with this vote!

  3. WOW - no poles up the center of the room blocking the view of the dais. Tiny name plates though. 80% of the water used in this valley is imported from somewhere else which should be an indicator that you live in a desert. If current drought conditions continue in the western U.S. its not going to matter how much you pay, water ain't going to be there so move now to where it does rain, please.

    1. I can't argue with "if current drought conditions continue" but we've always had cycles of wet years and dry years so I'm not one to think that things will be any different than they ever have been. Just like I don't think that recent unseasonable rain storm would be the new norm either. Thing is, we do need to change the way we landscape in SoCal, and that goes for homes, businesses and city parks too. Wide open fields of turf are going to have to get modified.


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