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Commentary: Pumping fees, lower revenues and cost-of-living increases necessitate higher water rates

The Mesa Water District, citing rising costs, is holding a public hearing Thursday on a planned rate increase.
(File Photo)

For the past 19 years, I have had the honor of representing you on Mesa Water’s board of directors, where I currently serve as president. Mesa Water’s vision is to be a top-performing public water agency, with the mission of satisfying our community’s water needs.

Our success is measured by our ability to reliably serve you safe, high-quality water in the most economical way possible. I’m proud to say that Mesa Water has done — and will continue to do — just that.

To provide you excellent customer service, Mesa Water’s strategic plan includes the goals of serving safe and reliable water, maintaining and improving our water system, and being financially responsible and transparent. We take these responsibilities seriously and, as good stewards of public funds, Mesa Water has consistently remained the most-efficient public water agency in Orange County, based on annual expenditures per capita. With no tax revenues, Mesa Water is funded solely by rates, which have secured a 100% local, reliable water supply to make our community drought-resilient.

However, rising costs necessitate reconsideration of Mesa Water’s rates and, over the past several months, our board, staff and financial consultants have been studying this matter. Three main factors are causing Mesa Water’s costs to go up:

1.) Higher pumping fees. The fee that Mesa Water pays to pump groundwater, which we serve to you, has increased more than 51% over the past three years, and that fee is projected to grow more than 40% over the next five years, which is close to a 100% increase in eight years.

2.) Reduced water revenues. During the recent, severe, multi-year drought, the state mandated Mesa Water to cut its service area’s water use by 20%. Less water use resulted in lower revenues, but our fixed costs for water system maintenance remain the same regardless of how much water we serve.

3.) Normal cost-of-living increases. This affects all of us, and operational costs such as equipment, labor, materials, supplies and professional services are projected to increase annually.

Given all this, Mesa Water believes the most-prudent action is to consider adjusting our water rates and charges. A rates study report, published at MesaWater.org/2017-rates-study, proposes a rate increase of up to 5% a year for five years, starting in 2018.

With our commitment to transparency, Mesa Water has held several public meetings over the past few months to provide multiple opportunities for public review and input on the proposed rate adjustments. The next opportunity will be at our public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday in our boardroom, 1965 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa. Please join us.

It’s never easy to hear that prices are going up, and Mesa Water’s staff is available to help you save water and save costs. Please feel free to contact Mesa Water by calling (949) 631-1200 or emailing info@MesaWater.org.

Your water rates fund our community’s future, with safe, reliable water service to help maintain our cherished lifestyles, something of which we can all be proud.

JIM ATKINSON has served on the Mesa Water Board of Directors since 1998.


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