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Mailers out this week: Higher water rates in coastal south O.C.

By May 11, 2016 No Comments

LAGUNA BEACH – South Coast Water District customers can expect mailers this week announcing proposed

increases in water and sewer rates.

The rate increases are driven by several factors, water district officials say. The district must cover its increased

costs to purchase water from wholesalers and deliver it to customers and pay to repair or replace aging

infrastructure.

The water district provides water and wastewater services to 35,000 residents, 1,000 businesses, and 2 million

annual visitors in Dana Point, South Laguna, and areas of San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano.

The new rates would ensure that the district can provide water and services based on actual costs and also simplify

the current complicated rate structure, District Manager Andy Brunhart said. At present, rates are divided into

multiple tiers and categories.

For example, if the new rate structure is approved, a single-family residential customer with a 3/4-inch meter using

7,480 gallons a month – which equates to one unit of water – would see an increase of $1.67 per week.

Brunhart said the district’s capital improvement program will cost $75 million across the next five years.

“The severe drought and future availability of water from up north or the Colorado River has highlighted the need

for reliable, sustainable and drought-proof sources of local water supply,” he said.

The district has proposed a desalination plant near San Juan Creek that could produce as much as 15 million

gallons of drinking water daily and create a reliable source for South County-area reserves in the wake of an

earthquake or drought. Brunhart said the plant is among the improvements that the increased rates would help

fund.

The $90 million plant – with a proposed 2019 opening date – could provide 75 percent of the district’s water

needs.

“Investing in new supply such as a desalination facility places control of our water destiny in the hands of our

community,” Brunhart said.

Another district project in South Laguna involves shoring up a tunnel that runs through cliffs and over the beach

from Aliso Way to Three Arch Bay. That estimated $72 million project needs to be completed to ensure that the

wastewater pipeline in the tunnel does not rupture.

The rate increases are part of regular rate adjustment over the next five fiscal years, and if approved, would go into

effect for billing periods after July 1, Brunhart said.

He said the new rates would ensure that charges are for actual water and services and that charges during peak

usage times would be based on customers’ previous history of water use.

The district will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. June 23 in Dana Point City Council chambers to discuss the

proposed rate changes. Brunhart said the proposal has been discussed in at least nine public meetings since

November.

Brunhart points to the drought requirements required by the state as an example of how the district, with less

water usage, continues to have fixed operating and maintenance costs.

“Pump, reservoirs, we have to have all that in place whether a customer buys water or not,” he said. “We want to

create solutions to stabilize our rates. We want to shift costs to annual cost. That way we’re assured we have

enough revenue, and people reduce water usage, we can still pay our fixed costs and other bills.”

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/water-715508- district-brunhart.html