East Bay Municipal Utility District raises water rates in response to California drought

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East Bay Municipal Utility District passed a series of increased water rates Tuesday to account for increasing costs brought on by the California drought.

The EBMUD Board of Directors unanimously approved a temporary 25 percent stage-four drought surcharge on the metered portion of the water bill and an 8 percent average water rate increase to replace aging infrastructure and pay debt on water projects.

With a budget of $1.8 billion for the next two years, EBMUD said the new rates will account for the increasing costs of drought. A 7 percent rate increase for all water customers was also approved for fiscal year 2017.

Board President Frank Mellon and the board of directors announced in a press release that the drought surcharge would recover “the costs of additional water supplies and temporary staff who will support water conservation and enforce watering restrictions.”

“Over the short-term, this new budget allows us to pay for increasing drought costs including additional water supplies to fill local reservoirs,” Mellon said in the release. “Long-term, it set us on the right path of replacing more miles of aging water pipes every year.”

For City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, the rate increases are a “sad necessity,” but given the severity of the drought, “something needed to be done,” he said. It will encourage some people to be more careful about conserving water, according to Worthington, but those who have already conserved as much as they can “are going to be stuck paying a bit more money.”

Luis Amezcua, chair of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission, said that those who are conserving water should not feel as if they are being punished and that the rate structure could be improved to help people.

“EBMUD really has to get into the details of looking at ways they can modify their rate structure,” he said.

But campus professor of environmental and resource economics Michael Hanemann said the rate increase should not be viewed as a sign of adversity. Because water is sold cheaply, he said, it costs much less than other mundane expenditures, such as milk or beer, and the new rates will therefore take up only a minute portion of most people’s income.

The new water rates will take effect July 1.

 

Contact Shagun Khare at [email protected].