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Water commissioners recommend rate hike

It will cost Laguna Beach families and businesses a little more to turn on the water taps if the City Council approves a rate hike recommended Tuesday by the Laguna Beach County Water District commissioners.

The council sits as the district board of directors and must approve rate increases. The increase and the Water Use Efficiency & Water Supply Shortage Ordinance, approved June 16 by the council, are prompted by the increase in the cost of wholesale water, the decrease in the allotment, and the hefty fees for exceeding the allotment.

“We are challenged by a 19.7% [cost] increase by our supplier, Metropolitan Water," district General Manager Renae Hinchey said. “It is especially bad for us because 100% of our water is imported from the Colorado River and Northern California."

Metropolitan added to the district’s woes by cutting the annual allotment by 13.3%.

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“You are probably saying how will this affect me?" Hinchey told the handful of folks who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

The 7% increase in the rate for the district customers in the so-called tier one "” single-family residences that use up to 30 units of water per two-month billing cycle "” translates to a total $7.39 increase at $3.23 per unit.

A unit is 748 gallons of water.

Residences that use more than 30 units "” tier two "” will be charged $3.58 a unit.

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All other customers "” multifamily residences and commercial properties "” would be charged $3.42 per unit, up by 25 cents a unit, if the increases were approved as proposed.

“It is one of the most equitable ways of doing a water rate structure," said Christopher Regan, district administration manager.

Under the budget formula, the district would analyze every property in Laguna and determine the appropriate allotment of water. Customers that stay within the allotment would be tier one. Those that exceed the allotment would be in tier two and it would cost them plenty.

“We would give them an amount of water and if they want to water their roses rather than take a shower, it would be up to them," Regan said.

The tier system currently in effect is based on average use and one size does not fit all. Tracy Brennan owns six or eight lots in Diamond Crestview, the result of the 1998 landslide, when city property tumbled down onto her home.

The city added their lots to her property.

However, she has only one water meter to irrigate about an acre of property in a high fire hazard area.

Brennan’s last bill was $388.05.

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If the parcel were broken up into eight lots, the owners would all pay tier-one rates, but they would use a lot more water, Brennan said, and asked for some consideration.

"The water budget [rate structure] might address your needs," Regan said. “It takes oddities into account."

Brennan said her problems are made worse by the construction in her neighborhood and workers are hooking up nozzles to her spigots and dragging hoses from her home to project sites and even washing their trucks.

Hinchey told Brennan to contact the district immediately if she caught anyone using her water without her permission. Regan advised her to contact the city. Already done, Brennan said, but the police didn’t respond.

The rate increase proposed Tuesday will be submitted for approval to the council at its July 7 meeting.



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