Task Force Recommends Changes to Water Use Tiers and Rates

Highest Users and Those Who Don’t Conserve Would Pay MoreWaterRates

The Water Shortage Task Force is recommending that the city of Ventura create a new, four-tiered water rate structure that will send a strong message for conservation during Water Shortage events like the current drought.

Under the proposed plan the City Council is expected to consider in February, low to average residential water customers who conserve by 20 percent would not see an increase in their water bill. The highest residential users would pay more for their water – but won’t pay that much more if they reduce use by 20 percent, even at the highest tier. The very lowest users who have already cut back would see no increase and would see slight reduction in their bill if they cut back even more.

Commercial customers would be expected to conserve by 10 percent during the Stage 3 Water Shortage, so business activity is not harmed, a common practice in the water industry. And, if the city’s water suppliers increase their costs or the city incurs penalties from customers not conserving enough, those costs would be passed on to all customers (except the lowest-tier residential customers), according to the proposal.

The new tiers and rates would take effect in July 2015 if approved after public hearings targeted for May and June, said Ventura Water General Manager Shana Epstein.

The 13-member Water Shortage Task Force has been studying and considering proposed changes to Ventura Water’s water tiers and rate structure during their final two meetings in December and January. Task Force members discussed several reports prepared by Raftelis Financial Consultants that examined different models for rates and tiers.

The new proposed rate structure would include four tiers. The average residential user’s bill would remain the same IF they cut back by 20 percent; if they don’t, their bi-monthly bills would rise, perhaps by about $22, according to draft figures calculated by Raftelis. The highest water users who fail to conserve would pay even more.

Raftelis’ figures account for the city fully recovering drought-related costs from lower water sales due to conservation and Stage 3 drought expenses, estimated at $1,134,000. Expenses include the proposed conservation incentive program, water waste enforcement, customer outreach and customer surveys.

“We are trying to send a stronger message for conservation by hitting the biggest users,” Sudhir D. Pardwala, Raftelis’ executive vice president, told the Task Force.

Ventura Water Officials said 56 percent of water use is currently in the lowest tier and only 19 percent of water use is currently in the highest tier.

Water Shortage Task Force Member Rob Corley said the proposed new tiers are fair and incentivize people to do the right thing and conserve. “It’s a very balanced and fair system,” he said at the December meeting.

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From Ventura Water’s Pipeline, January 2015

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