Grover Beach may raise water rates

Grover Beach residents could see steep increases in their water rates to pay the county for upgrades at the Lopez Lake reservoir if approved by the City Council at its meeting tonight.

City Manager Bob Perrault said the increases are needed to make payments to cover Grover Beach’s share of $26 million worth of upgrades at the reservoir.

That work increased Grover Beach’s cost for water from the lake 60 percent over the past three years.

If approved, the rates would rise at least 30 percent starting next month, with at least a 2 percent increase in July 2011.

The increases are based on how much water is consumed and the size of the consumer’s meter.

A residential customer using 22 units of water with a 1-inch meter, for example, would see the bi-monthly bill increase nearly $29, to $94 from $65.30. That’s an increase of more than 48 percent.

A unit of water is equal to 784 gallons.

Commercial customers using 12 units of water with a 1-inch meter can expect to see their bill increase to $122.70 from $69.42, Perrault said. That’s a nearly 77 percent increase.

The potential increases concern some Grover Beach residents, 11 of whom wrote letters to the city protesting the initial increase.

Alan Prince has seen his water bill rise even as his use goes down.

Prince, who has lived in the city for 13 years, paid $570 in 2004 for water and used about 166,000 gallons. Last year, he used 147,000 gallons — but paid $839.

“It’s going to hit those … who don’t have any spare money,” he said.

The increase is the third rate increase in the past several years. The city also raised rates by 25.4 percent in 2007, in two 12-percent increases that were about six months apart.

“Even though (residents) are conserving water, our costs unfortunately are not going down,” Perrault said. It’s actually costing us more to produce less water.”

A portion of the money from the rate increase will go toward the replacement of water lines, on which the city spends about $100,000 a year. Perrault said some will also be used to maintain water fund reserves.

Conservation efforts have dropped overall water usage about 10 percent in the city, officials said.

Grover Beach is using 91 percent of its annual water allocation, 64 percent of which comes from a water basin under the Five Cities communities. About 36 percent of its water comes from Lopez Lake.

The city will pay its share for the improvements to the reservoir over numerous years. Perrault estimates the city will pay $1.2 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated on Twitter by following @SouthCountyBeat.