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Water Levels Rising, So Are Rates

The East Bay's water supply looks good right now but be prepared to pay more for the precious liquid.

At the moment, there's plenty of water — and you can expect to pay more for it this year.

This winter's rain and snow has filled the region's reservoirs nicely. At the same time, water districts in the East Bay have either raised their rates or are planning to do so.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District has raised rates by 6 percent the past two years. It will hold hearings this spring on whether to increase rates again on July 1.

The Contra Costa Water District raised rates by 3.5 percent last week. 

On Thursday night, the Alameda County Water District will hold a hearing on a proposal to raise its rates by 17 percent. The hike, if approved, would increase an average homeowner's monthly water bill by $7.50.

All three water systems have above normal water supplies for this time of year.

EBMUD's water supply looks good. The district's report this week shows that its reservoirs are at almost 80 percent capacity with reports for the typically wet months of January and February still ahead.

More than 600,000 acre-feet of water is in the reservoirs. That's more water than the district typically uses in a two-year period.

Charles Hardy, EBMUD spokesman, said the district is still conservative when it comes to water usage. He notes you never want to assume rain and snow will continue to fall.

"Mother Nature is in charge at the end of the day," he said.

During the past two years, EBMUD's rates have risen 6 percent on each July 1. The board usually holds hearings in the spring and then votes in May whether to raise rates. It's not known yet what they'll do this year.

"We don't have a set rule that rates go up," Hardy said.

However, Hardy said water may be free, but distributing it to the district's 1.3 million customers isn't. He said water service is an expensive industry with the cost of chemicals, fuel, salaries, equipment and pipe repair all on the rise.

He notes EBMUD is a public entity with no profit margin and no shareholder dividends.

"The rates are a real number for us to do business," he said.

Jackie Care January 11, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Happy we have precious water and also that this is a Not for profit utility!

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