EVMWD raises rates, adds drought surcharge

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Many Canyon Lakers are keeping their fingers crossed that the forecasted “El Niño” will bring rain to their parched state and end the need to cut back even more than they already have on water use. Nevertheless, El Niño didn’t figure into the water district’s budget plans for the coming fiscal year, with customer costs going up 27 percent beginning in August.

The following information was provided by the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District to prepare customers for a new rate and water budget structure that was approved on July 23.

With outside cost increases, new requirements by the State Water Resources Control Board, and the Governor’s executive order, the EVMWD Board of Directors unanimously approved its budget with rate increases and a new water budget tier structure.

EVMWD says the decision, which goes into effect on July 31, 2015, was made after careful consideration for the costs associated with providing safe and reliable water service to residents and businesses and the significant impacts from the Governor’s actions earlier this year.

EVMWD faces cost increases for energy, maintenance, treatment, infrastructure, delivery and supply, along with significant reductions being requested by the Governor. Imported water rates have more than doubled over the past 10 years, and energy costs increased by 30 percent for the district.

New state regulations have been imposed on water districts. Adjusting EVMWD’s rates to meet this cost requires continued water use efficiency. EVMWD says it has has taken careful consideration of how to best serve customers by initiating cost-cutting measures, utilizing reserve funds, and ensuring the increase is as minimal as possible, while maintaining fair and equitable rates.

EVMWD has also implemented a simplified four-tier rate structure to allow customers more control over the amount of water they use. The utility says utilizing the budget-based rate structure as a means of increasing water use efficiency has proven effective in achieving fairness among EVMWD customers.

With the passing of the simplified rates structure, EVMWD can continue to charge its customers the cost of providing water service fairly and equitably, while maintaining the district’s financial stability.

In addition, the state of California is in its fourth year of a drought. Governor Brown has declared a State of Emergency and is requiring water reductions of 28 percent for EVMWD and its customers. In light of this, EVMWD is implementing a temporary drought surcharge.

The surcharge is designed to encourage additional conservation, increase compliance with state conservation requirements, and offset revenue losses due to the Governor’s Executive Order for water reduction. Drought surcharges are applied at Stage 3a through Stage 5c of a Drought Emergency to all customers and will remain in effect until further notice.

Effective July 31, the average customer, who uses approximately 20 units of water a month will see a 4.5 percent rate increase, an average of $3.17 per month, on their water bill. Since rates vary by location and elevation, the rate increase will differ based on each customer’s location and water use. (The 4.5 percent is related to regular increases in costs.)

Because of California’s water use reduction mandate and the need to meet the state-set reductions, an average customer using 20 units of water a month will see a 22.5 percent increase related to the drought surcharge.

This amounts to an increase of 27 percent, an average of $19.21 per month, for customers who average 20 units of water per month. Customers who exceed their water budgets, and use excessive amounts of water will see even larger increases to their water bill.

“We recognize the significant affect the rate changes will have on all of our customers,” says Phil Williams, president of the board. “Our customers have proven their commitment to water conservation through water savings efforts they have shown over the past 10 years. Unfortunately, the State Water Resources Control Board has mandated these water reductions without regard for our customer’s past efforts and we must still comply with the restrictions.”

EVMWD is continuing to consider and provide options to its customers to encourage conservation and reduce bills. EVMWD offers a wide variety of rebates and incentives through its conservation programs. EVMWD is also offsetting costs with over $5 million in grant funding for improvement projects and utilizing district owned property to create revenue that is then used for sustainable projects.

In line with EVMWD’s commitment to transparency, detailed information regarding rates, the water budget structure, and the drought surcharge, is available at www.evmwd.com.

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Sharon Rice