Your water bill is going to go up.
There is not much of anything anyone can do to stop that from happening.
It’s no surprise to anyone connected with the water picture here in Southern California, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take.
If it helps, it’s not just the people who buy water and sell it to you making the statements—the County Grand Jury has now weighed in with a report saying much the same thing.
I’ll try not to bog you down with numbers here, but some, at least, are unavoidable if we’re to understand what’s going on.
The Water Authority gets fully 80 percent of the water it sells our local agencies from elsewhere—50 percent from the Colorado River, and about 30 percent from Northern California through the State Water Project. That’s water that comes from Northern California snow melt and feeds into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
There is a complicating factor here. The Water Authority has to buy all that water from the huge Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, based in Los Angeles.
Met, as it’s known, buys the water and resells it to the Water Authority and 25 other Southern California water retailers.
Last year, the water authority paid Met $241 million for that water, at a cost of about $744 per acre foot. An acre foot of water is the amount required to cover an acre, or a football field, to a depth of one foot—about 326,000 gallons. Remember that term, you’ll see it a lot here.
You see, Met has a problem, a big problem.
It has fixed costs it has to pay for the infrastructure—the pipelines, the tunnels, the dams, the facilities and people needed to move the water where it needs to go.
But Met isn’t selling nearly as much water as it used to, thanks to the of the people it ultimately serves. In fact, Met’s sales dropped fully 32 percent over the last year—while their rates went up about 55 percent.
People got the message, in a big way, that we needed to conserve in drought years.
That puts Met between the proverbial rock and a hard place, and triggers what water experts say is this line of thought at Met: "What to do, what to do, what to do?"
Here's how I see the situation from Met's point of view:
Well, when all else fails, we’ll just have to charge more for the water we do sell.
But wait—state law demands that we can only charge the actual, reasonable cost of what we paid the state for the water from Northern California!
OK, the only way we can get more money out of the local agencies, and ultimately the ratepayers who are the end users of the water, is to charge them a lot more for MOVING the water—what we’ll call transportation fees.
We’ll also charge them more for storing their water in our reservoirs.
Who can we really get more money out of?
Obviously, the SDWA is by far our biggest single customer—they buy fully 25 percent of the water we sell—so we could really sock it to them, couldn’t we?
Which, the SDWA claims, is exactly what’s happening, and why our rates continue to climb.
But SDWA says that’s wrong, and it’s gone to court to break that policy.
Come back next week for more on the legal fight, and what it could mean to all of us, in Part Two.