CV water rates may rise again

LA CRESCENTA — The Crescenta Valley Water District is again moving to raise the price of water for customers who already pay among the highest rates in the region.

District officials say they are proposing an average 8% rate increase as a way to pass on the higher cost of imported water, to recoup lost revenues stemming from increased conservation and to cover the rising costs for maintenance and operations.

The Crescenta Valley imports about a third of its water from the Foothill Municipal Water District, which in turn relies on imports from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Officials there approved a 15% rate increase over the next two years, added on to a 20% increase approved last year.

Utilities in Burbank and Glendale, which also rely on imported water, have also proposed rate increases, though Crescenta Valley rates are the highest among the three agencies, according to a survey conducted by Glendale Water & Power.

The Crescenta Valley Water District's Board of Directors on Tuesday voted to notify customers in La Crescenta, Montrose and portions of Glendale and La Cañada Flintridge of the proposed increase.

A public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 19, and if approved, the rates would take effect on Jan. 1.

Much of the discussion on Tuesday focused on how to present the proposed increase to customers, who overwhelmingly responded to mandatory conservation measures that limit outdoor watering to a few days a week.

Last year's water use was down by 13% compared with the previous year, but that meant less revenue coming in for the agency, officials said.

"The one concern I have is whether the community has really gotten a lot of knowledge that we are considering a rate increase," said board member James Bodar. "I'm just a little sensitive to that — that people might think we are springing another rate increase."

The proposed hikes would hit the district's biggest water users the hardest according to a tiered rate structure, which officials say rewards conservation.

Customers using 10,000 gallons or less per bimonthly billing cycle would see no change in their water rate under the proposed changes. Average customers using 22,000 gallons would experience an increase of about $9.32 per bill, while those using 51,000 gallons or more could see increases upwards of $40 per bill.

Even the district's most strict conservationists would see an at least $5 increase on each bill through a service charge hike that would be levied across the board on top of water rate increases.

The threshold for the top tier would also be lowered by 10,000 gallons to 51,000, meaning those who have cut back their use could again find themselves in the top users category.

"People went and conserved enough where we had to go and adjust the tier levels down because there weren't enough bills within the 50 to 60 range to create enough revenue," said district Engineer David Gould.

Board member Kathy Ross said she was concerned lowering the fourth tier could unfairly penalize some customers.

"I know I've pushed for the cutoff for that upper tier to try and account for and not penalize large families," she said.

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