Water firm wants to increase Osos rates

Golden State Water Co., a domestic water purveyor, wants to increase its rates in Los Osos by 48 percent starting in 2011.

The water bill of a typical homeowner would go up $25.57 a month under the proposal. Rates would jump an additional 50 cents a month in 2012. The company serves about 3,300 customers in Los Osos and the Edna Valley.

Company officials say the increase is necessary to pay for more than $5 million in needed facilities improvements and to cover increased costs. These include installing 1,250 feet of pipeline, drilling and equipping wells, and upgrading treatment plants.

The rate increase must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, a process that is expected to take most of the year. The process is also likely to include a public hearing in Los Osos by the agency, said John Dewey, company spokesman.

The commission will consider the company’s quality of service, revenues, expenses and financial outlook when making its decision. The agency could also decide to spread the rate increase more evenly over the next two years.

The company will host an open house at Monarch Grove Elementary School at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to answer customers’ questions. Customers will also be notified of the proposal by mail.

In order to encourage water conservation, the company instituted a three-tiered rate system in September. Customers pay a basic service charge starting at $20 a month and a unit charge based on how much water they use.

Los Osos relies on underground aquifers for its drinking water. Over-pumping has caused salt-water to encroach into the groundwater, threatening supplies.