Poway residents and businesses are facing an increase next year in the price they pay for water, with the typical residential bi-monthly bill going up by $4.49.
The increase in the rate structure was reluctantly yet unanimously approved by the Poway City Council Tuesday night, a move councilmembers said was unavoidable due to cost increases imposed by the San Diego County Water Authority.
Councilman Jim Cunningham said that Poway is charged about twice as much for raw water than six years ago. Assistant City Manager Tina White agreed.
“We were paying $420 an acre-foot, and in January it will go up to $800,” White told the council.
“That’s not a penny of the cost that the City of Poway has added to the water,” Cunningham said. “That’s our raw water cost.”
The 3.5 percent rate increase will begin on Jan. 1. Water bills are issued every two months, and customers will see the increase on bills mailed after March 1, according to a staff report.
Single-family residential water customers are charged on a two-tier system, with heavy users paying more per unit, or 748 gallons. Block One homes—consuming less than 200 units every two months—will be charged $3.96 per unit, up 13 cents. Block Two homes will be charged $5.65 per unit, up 19 cents.
The hearing in Council Chambers was required to give the public a chance to protest the rate increase, and notices were mailed to 13,633 ratepayers in August notifying them of Tuesday’s hearing. Ratepayers were also advised that they could file a written protest by email, fax or U.S. mail. If more than 50 percent of ratepayers file a protest, the council can’t approve the rate increase.
City Clerk Linda Troyan told the council that 30 written protests were filed.
City Council candidate Gary Vineyard questioned a new policy on pumping charges that have been levied on about 3,000 customers in who pay more per unit. Those customers live in areas that need extra pumps to deliver the water to their homes, and the pumping charges raise about $250,000 a year, according to city staff. Under the new rate structure no residences will pay extra for pumping.
“It seems like that’s one of the issues where 99 percent of us are paying for 1 percent, and I don’t think that’s really reasonable for all the rest of us in Poway that pay our water bills,” Vineyard said.
White noted that the city pumps water to certain reservoirs at a higher level during fire season, benefiting the entire community, not just the residents living near those reservoirs.
“Our ability to push water out to every reservoir and to control the water quality at those reservoirs is for the benefit of the entire community,” White said.
The $250,000 a year collected from the pumping charges represented a small fraction of the $20 million in water revenue, White said.