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SC_144By Eric Heinz

As the city of San Clemente’s latest installment of water rates went into effect Aug. 1, a study of the cost of service to the city is to be conducted and completed this fall.

On Aug. 10, the city hosted a water rate workshop to address community members’ concerns and suggestions regarding the assessment of how the city bills its customers.

Pierce Rossum of Carollo Engineers started the presentation, saying the city’s revenue is not enough to meet the costs of service. A majority of this is due to the decrease in water usage as part of the state mandate in 2015 to reduce water use by at least 24 percent for San Clemente. On Tuesday, Aug. 16, the State Water Resources Control Board released information that stated San Clemente had reduced its use by 28.6 percent since this time last year.

“The reason we’re here is to adjust to the new normal,” Rossum said. “The world changed for us about a year ago when the governor ordered a 25 percent conservation mandate.”

Rossum said a “stronger nexus” between the cost to operate the service and the revenue collected is needed, and that the rates are understood and accepted by the public.

According to Carollo Engineers, the city has more than 17,500 accounts, 210 miles of water lines, 14 reservoirs, 16 pump stations, 56 pressure-reducing stations, two groundwater wells and three sources of water supply. Of the sources, about 90 percent is purchased from the Municipal Water District of Orange County.

During the workshop, local attorney Brad Malamud, who has challenged the city’s rate structure since it was amended in 2015 to the tiered system, said allocating based on the city’s tiers is not allowed under Proposition 218, which mandates governments must charge appropriate rates to utilities in order to operate them.

“That’s not one of the things we’re supposed to do as a government,” Malamud said. “I am disturbed you’re going through. Having said that, I know you’re not trying to break any laws.”

The city agreed to pay Carollo no more than $87,000 to conduct the study.

The report is expected to be presented to City Council sometime this fall so that new rates can go into effect in early 2017.

To watch the workshop in its entirety, visit the City of San Clemente YouTube page by clicking here.

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