Laguna residents north of Nyes Place are paying more for water as a result of a rate hike that went into affect Jan. 1. The Laguna Beach County Water District, which serves that area, raised their rates in anticipation of an impending increase from their wholesaler.
The typical Laguna resident, who consumes about 22,440 gallons yearly, will pay about $9.90 more per year as a result, according to the district. Due to the district’s two-month billing cycles, residents will be feeling the effects of the new rate structure for the first time this month.
Water customers south of Nyes, who get their water from South Coast Water District, may soon see a rate increase as well.
The district’s cost of purchasing water has increased seven percent over a year ago and a rate increase of five or six percent will be passed on to customers by June, forecasts board member Richard Gardner.
Rates will be on the agenda of the district’s regular meeting next week, Thursday, April 14, said spokeswoman Linda Homeschied.
“We are just passing the rate increase on. I have been trying hard to tighten up as much as I can, to make sure we are running as efficient as we can on every task,” said Gardner.
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which wholesales water to all of Southern California, sold less water last year, and predicts even lower sales this year, due to a slowing economy and conservation efforts by consumers. Meanwhile its fixed costs remain the same: payroll for 1,750 employees, bond payments for old projects, and significant operating and maintenance costs for its 819 miles of pipelines and tunnels, five treatment plants, and nine reservoirs, and 16 hydroelectric plants.
Both water districts serving Laguna are passing on increases from the MWD, which operates the aqueduct that conveys water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to southern California. The wholesaler is raising its rates 7.5 percent next week for various reasons, prompting both local water districts to step up looking for alternate sources of supply.
“Our 10-year goal is to be significantly less reliant on dwindling and increasingly unpredictable water supplies from Metropolitan Water District,” said Homeschied.
Both agencies serving Laguna are actively looking at costly ocean water desalination projects being developed in Dana Point and Huntington Beach. “The benefit of going with desalination is that it’s an additional supply, and there is plenty of ocean water,” said Christopher Regan, a spokesman for the Laguna County district.
In another effort to shrink its MWD dependence, South Coast Water District recently received approval to extract 890 acre-feet annually from Aliso Creek, to purify and sell reclaimed water for irrigation of the Aliso Creek Golf Course. The water would not be drinking quality. Local water-quality activist Roger Von Butow, who has opposed the permit since 2005, now intends to appeal the matter to the Coastal Commission.
“There’s no need to set the precedent of taking water out of a stream when you’ve already got the water. They already have all the water they need at the coastal treatment plant,” said Butow.
Gardner said the project is viewed as a back up plan for drought years and when MWD supplies may become more expensive.