Water District approves increases to monthly usage rates and annual service fees

By Andrea Papagianis

South Coast Water District
South Coast Water District

The cost of water and sewer services for residents of Dana Point, south Laguna Beach and parts of San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano will rise in August following a split vote approval of rate increases by the South Coast Water District.

At a special meeting Monday, the SCWD board of directors approved increases to monthly water and sewer usage for residences and businesses, and also raised annual service fees. The board’s 3-1 vote followed a stalemate 2-2 vote on Friday. Board member Dick Dietmeier was absent for both.

Monthly water bills will see an increase of about 7 percent this year, while sewer bills will decline by about 10 percent. Annual sewer charges will initially drop by about $35 this year, but increase by $28 in 2014. For this year, water service fees will stay the same but will increase by about 3.5 percent the next.

Originally, staff presented recommendations to increase rates over three years, but the board settled on raising costs over a two-year span for fiscal years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. The approved rate changes of sewer services are down from the district’s original proposal, which the board rejected last week. But water usage rates were increased by the maximum amount the district informed customers of in June.

To keep costs to customers down, the district will pull $350,000 out of reserves to off-set the cost of importing water and to stabilize rates. Approximately, $100,000 will go toward lessening the impact on water service fees, while the remaining balance will be used to lower sewer usage rates, the district said.

District staff said the increases were necessary because of the rising costs associated with importing water, to develop local water resources and to maintain infrastructure. According to a district report, 75 percent of the entity’s water comes from outside suppliers, with expected cost increases of 5 percent annually over the next several years.

General Manger Betty Burnett said the district’s other options were to cut capital spending projects.

Monday’s meeting was a continuation of the regularly scheduled meeting Friday where board members were in disagreement. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 8 at Dana Point City Hall, Council Chambers, 33282 Golden Lantern.

For more information on how rate changes will affect individual residences, visit www.scwd.org.

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