Sunday, May 24, 2015 – 01:00 p.m.

California water agencies are at it big time

Using the drought as a driving force. Water suppliers are hammering away at rate increases in every shape or form possible.

What better time to squeeze residents and businesses than a much-publicized water shortage.

The drop-off in water consumption means less revenues for agencies, small and large alike.

My own water supplier, East Valley Water District, located in Eastern San Bernardino County, California, has been mailing water users a “sample bill” of just what their rates would look like under a new billing system set to take effect on June 1, 2015.

The way they’re presenting it is very interesting and deceptive. A recent appellate court opinion has put the brakes on the application of higher tiers in order to curtail consumption. In other words the agencies can’t gouge in order to profit from the drought, but only charge for the actual cost of providing clean water-related  services.

I calculated the changes in the “Sample” East Valley billing, and found that my May 18 bill, if under the new billing rates, would have resulted in the following changes:

Water Use Charge      -  4.24%
Sewer                 Unchanged
Standby Fire Service  + 42.32%
Water System Charge   + 94.09%
Overall Bill Increase + 15.27%

Of course the increase in the Standby Fire Service Charge and Water System Charge are permanent. In other words, Noah’s Ark could land in California and the new rates will not decline. But the “Sample Bills” do not explain anything about the what the differences in the billings are and what the money is being used for. Discerning the impact to one’s bill is up to the individual ratepayer to figure out for themselves.

It’ll be a tragedy if the increase in Water System Charge is due to a proposed, and unnecessary, wastewater treatment plant.

This ladies and gentleman is how you use a crisis to ring up a nice revenue windfall. But it’s disingenuous to say the least!

All water board members are elected officials, who must answer to voters.

It’s time to start asking questions.