San Luis Obispo residents are using less water, and will now be asked to pay more for it.
A 10 percent increase in water rates is being proposed for July, followed by a 9 percent increase in 2012 — which totals nearly 20 percent because of compounding.
That increase is to be used to help offset what the city calls an “unprecedented” drop in water use that has created a more than $1 million revenue decline, Utilities Director Carrie Mattingly said.
“The amount of water used by the community dropped off a cliff this last year,” Mattingly said.
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She added that for the past decade water use citywide has averaged about 6,000 acre-feet and is now averaging about 5,500 acre-feet. That’s a reduction of about 8.3 percent.
An acre-foot of water is nearly 326,000 gallons, enough to cover 1 acre of land a foot deep.
San Luis Obispo ratepayers only pay for water that they use. The city does not charge a base fee, Mattingly said.
“What happens because of that is a conundrum — when people conserve, they have to pay more for every unit of water,” she said.
An average local household now uses about 6,732 gallons, or nine billing units, of water a month, according to city figures.
The water bill for that household, 2.3 people on average, is $52.13 a month. It would go up to $57.33 in July and to $62.53 in 2012.
Sewer rates will also increase. A 7 percent rate increase is being proposed to begin in July and a 6 percent increase is proposed for 2012. Because of compounding, the total increase will be 13.4 percent.
Water and sewer rates have increased by every year since 2006. Rates last increased in July 2010 with an 11 percent increase in water rates and a 9 percent increase in sewer rates.
The increases are intended to pay for improvements to San Luis Obispo’s water system and for the city’s share of the Nacimiento Water Project. The city is now using Nacimiento Lake, north of Paso Robles, as its main water source. In January, San Luis Obispo became the first city to treat and use the water after completion of the 45-mile, $176 million pipeline.
The city treats about 2.2 billion gallons of water annually, according to city staff. About 1.1 billion gallons of water from Nacimiento Lake will be used each year, and supplemented mainly from Santa Margarita Lake to meet the city’s needs.
The drop in water use is attributed to various factors, including more rain than normal, people removing grass in their yards and watering other landscaping less to save money because of the slowed economy, Mattingly said.
Because of the decrease in revenue, capital improvement projects, such as replacing the city’s aging water pipes, will be delayed.
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.