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Water rates could go up in SLO — but a typical monthly bill could go down

Water from Lake Nacimiento flows down the lake’s spillway this year. The lake, the main supplier of San Luis Obispo’s water, is at 91 percent capacity.
Water from Lake Nacimiento flows down the lake’s spillway this year. The lake, the main supplier of San Luis Obispo’s water, is at 91 percent capacity. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Beginning July 1, a typical household in San Luis Obispo that uses about 150 gallons of water per day will see its monthly bill drop slightly to $55.95 from $58.10 under a pending proposal, even though the city is considering a base rate increase.

That’s because the city will drop a drought surcharge, which now accounts for more than 11 percent of that bill.

The city is proposing a base rate increase of about 24 percent, and an additional 5 percent increase to the per unit charge based on how much water a household uses. If the city didn’t drop the drought surcharge, that same household bill would go up by about $4 a month.

The proposed rate increases are designed to help provide enough money for the city’s water services to make up for a decline in water revenue because water consumption has dropped.

Residents can protest the proposed rate increase until June 6, when the City Council holds a public hearing on the proposed change. It would take more than 50 percent of ratepayers to defeat the proposal under Proposition 218.

The city is not proposing to increase sewer rates over the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

If approved, the new base fee for water will increase to $12.33 from $9.98 per month, and the monthly volume charge would go up to $7.27 from $6.92 per unit for those using between zero and eight units (a unit is 748 gallons); those using nine units or above would pay $9.08 a unit instead of $8.65 per unit.

“With the winter rainfall, state-mandated emergency water restrictions should be lifted in May with the city following suit to declare the end of the city’s water emergency declaration,” the city wrote in a mailer to residents.

Before the drought, city water users consumed about 5,100 acre-feet of potable, drinkable water for indoor use and outdoor irrigation. That usage has dropped about 20 percent to 4,100 acre-feet of water use per year. The state mandated that the city reduce usage by 12 percent, which the city exceeded.

“While this shift in our water culture is appropriate and prepares the city for water sustainability, the reduction in water consumption directly impacts utility revenue based on the method the city charges for its water services,” the city wrote.

Aaron Floyd, the city’s deputy director of water, said that three reservoirs providing the majority of the city’s water have seen capacities significantly increase this year with more rain. Lake Nacimiento, for example, is at 91 capacity, up from about 34 percent last year.

“SLO is doing great with water supply right now,” Floyd said. “All of our reservoirs have seen significant increases.”

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