Water district raises fees some

South Coast Water District is charging more for water and sewer usage, but not as much as previously considered.

The increase, which will show up on bills starting in August, is attributed to the rising cost of imported water, the development of local water supplies and capital improvements, which the district anticipates will cost $120 million in the next five years.

Cuts in the district's 2011-12 budget and use of reserve funds kept the increases a low as possible, district officials said.

"None of the directors wanted to increase rates," said board President Wayne Rayfield. "In fact, the board unanimously voted last year to postpone a planned rate increase during the economic downturn. However, faced again with critical water and sewer initiatives and dramatically rising water, power and project costs, the board saw no alternative but to increase rates."

Monthly rates will be raised by $6.70 for a typical single-family residence of two or three occupants using 7,480 gallons a month. A typical single-family residence with three or four occupants using 14,960 gallons a billing period will see a $17.11 increase.

Customers were notified in May of the maximum rate increases being considered.

"By the time the board voted in June, we lowered every rate under consideration except one — the Tier 1 water usage rate for single-family residences," Rayfield said. "That rate remained [at] $1.91 per unit of water because that is the cost to purchase water from Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and we cannot sell water for less than we actually pay."

The previous Tier 1 rate of $1.52 had been in effect since July 2009 and no longer covered the cost of water.

New annual water and sewer service charges also took effect and will be collected on property tax statements later this year. Starting in January, the board will look into the need for the additional rate increase set to take effect next year, officials said.

New rates and charges for all customers will be posted on scwd.org with a monthly bill calculator to help single-family residences compare previous and new charges on their bills. For more information, email custserv@scwd.org or call (949) 499-4555 ext. 1.

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