Crescenta Valley Water District officials reduced their originally proposed rate increase on water consumption from 6.9% to 5.5% during a board meeting on Tuesday.
The board voted 4-0 to implement a reduced rate increase by taking $150,000 from a fund reserved for cleaning water that has been contaminated by methyl tert-butyl ether, or MTBE, a volatile organic compound.
Average single-family households who use about 17,000 gallons of water per billing period will need to pay an additional $4 a month instead of $5.
District officials attribute the need for a rate increase to reasons such as increasing water costs, the need to update and maintain existing infrastructure and the decline in water consumption over the past few years.
This is the 10th rate increase in the past 10 years, and the board expects they will continue to need to increase water rates for the next few years.
Because the water district relies on imported water from the Metropolitan and Foothill Municipal water districts, it has increasing fees it needs to pay to those suppliers.
The utility’s costs are also higher because of the energy required to pump water from the Foothill Municipal Water District connection near the Rose Bowl to La Crescenta, which, according to Richard Atwater, board president of the Foothill utility, is comparable to the pumping required on the 242-mile Colorado River Aqueduct.
After hearing a few comments from the public, board members briefly repeated statements they made during a June 12 public hearing about the rate hike.
Board member Mike Claessens said that, although he doesn’t want to increase the rates, he sees no alternative.
The utility has budgeted $1.5 million for needed capital-improvement projects this fiscal year, which was reduced from $2.5 million.
That’s compared to $3.9 million spent last year. The capital-improvement projects are necessary, according to staff, and include reactivating wells, making improvements to a reservoir and replacing a water main.
“We can choose not to spend any of it … like you can choose not to repair a car. The car might run for a while,” Claessens said.
Claessens said that if someone couldn’t offer an alternative proposal, there was not much the board can do to avoid the rate hike.
“This is not a car,” he said. “This is a water supply. It’s a fundamental basis for civilization. Unless I can hear some creative, alternative rational solution, I don’t know that I have any option but to vote for the rate increase.”
One local resident said he supported a rate increase but did not support using reserves from the MTBE fund. He said the board should instead invest in storm-water capture, which the utility is already looking into, and solar energy.
Board member Judy Tejeda disagreed.
“I think that’s the purpose of [the MTBE fund],” she said. “I think we have to put the brakes on, we have to be [compassionate] for people in this district, many [of whom] are on fixed incomes. Times are tough. If you’re one of those that has unlimited income, great, good for you, but there’s lots of people in this district [for which] that’s not true.”
After James Bodnar, board president, suggested taking $100,000 from the MTBE reserve to reduce the rate hike to 5.9%, Tejeda moved a motion to increase the amount to $150,000 in order to reduce the rate increase to 5.5%.
The MTBE compound is carcinogenic and has been detected in water supplies, lakes and rivers, especially during the summer months.
The Crescenta Valley Water District has not detected reportable levels of MTBE in the area’s groundwater since 2011. The district has used the MTBE reserve funds to make up for decreasing revenue and higher water costs in the past several years.