Water rate hike is questioned

County Supervisor Bruce Gibson and some Los Osos residents are questioning plans by Golden State Water Co. to raise rates by a hefty 48 percent.

At the beginning of the year, the private water purveyor applied with the state Public Utilities Commission to raise rates for its approximately 3,300 customers in Los Osos and the Edna Valley. The typical customer’s bill would go up $25.57 a month.

The company says it needs the increase to generate an additional $5.1 million to maintain and improve its water delivery systems. Some of the scheduled improvements include drilling and equipping a new replacement well and installing 1,250 feet of new pipeline.

However, the proposal lacks specificity about how the increase will benefit Los Osos residents as opposed to Edna Valley residents, who live some 20 miles away, Gibson said. He also noted that the water rate increase will come in addition to an estimated $200 a month for homeowners to pay for the Los Osos sewer system.

“It would be clearly unfair to burden Los Osos residents with a rate increase that provides benefit to a completely different community,” Gibson said in a letter to the Public Utilities Commission.

Golden State District Manager Ken Petersen said the increase will benefit both communities, and the state will ensure the fairness of the rates.

“The CPUC ensures the highest level of customer protection,” he said.

Others protest the new rates because they constitute the biggest increases in the company and include such perks as pay increases for top company executives, said Los Osos resident Bob Garner. He has started a website, www.thewaterrate.com, which details how Los Osos residents can oppose the rate increase.

“When every county in the state and every business in the country has had to make cutbacks, this private company’s demands are economically unjustified,” he wrote on the website.

Customers have until the end of August to protest the increase.

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.