Repairs driving up price
Sandra Emerson, Staff Writer
Created: 12/10/2011 06:07:27 AM PST

Significant water rate hikes in San Bernardino and Los Angeles County cities since the beginning of the year has caused many angry ratepayers to speak up.

Residents in Claremont and Barstow are facing proposed hikes from the privately run Golden State Water Company, while residents on the east side of the San Bernardino Valley have already been hit with increases.

The reason for the hikes boils down to one major issue – aging infrastructure, according to Susan Longville, director of Cal State San Bernardino’s Water Resources Institute.

“That’s why San Bernardino had to raise its rates, which in turn forced East Valley Water District to raise their rates,” Longville said. “It’s why the private municipal water did the same thing. And that’s where we’re at. It’s a terrible time for the consumer, no doubt about it.”

As the state’s resources dried up, so did grant money for water companies that was typically used for infrastructure repairs, so water companies are looking to customers to foot the bill, Longville said.

“You’re paying for the power, the pump, to treat and to move that water from the ground or from the reservoir, from everywhere to your home,” Longville said. “You’re paying for those carrying costs and the infrastructure that delivers it, and water agencies just find themselves in the place where the rate the consumer is going to pay is the only place to turn. There’s no other alternatives.”

The city of San Bernardino in January raised its waste water treatment water rates by 12.5 percent, which resulted in several other cities increasing their rates, including Redlands, Loma Linda and Mentone.

Also, East Valley Water District board of directors last month agreed to increase sewer treatment charges between 16 percent and 60 percent for some commercial customers.

Golden State Water Co. is proposing to increase water rates in its cities by 24.54 percent in 2013.

According to the water company officials, the proposed increases are to pay for infrastructure repairs over the next 30 years including the replacement of a well and a seismic retrofit to a reservoir.

However, members of the group Claremonters Against Outrageous Water Rates view it differently.

“I really think if you were to ask me, it’s corporate greed,” said Claremont resident Hal Hargrave, a member of the group.

“They have posed profits of an increase of 77 percent over the last year. That’s published. Their president is making over $1.1 million. Their senior vice president is making $754,000 and their CFO is making $728,000.”

The group is also angry over the Water Revenue Adjustment Mechanism, which charges residents for using less water. It reimburses the company for revenue lost by water conservation.

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