Coachella Valley Water District’s (CVWD) Board of Directors today approved a $369 million operating and capital improvement budget for fiscal year 2017-18, which keeps domestic water rates stable, thanks in part to reduced spending on chromium-6 treatment and healthy reserves.
A comprehensive Cost of Service Study last year recommended a five-year plan of rate increases based on assumptions about anticipated revenue and expenses. At today’s meeting, staff presented updated information that showed an increase this year is no longer needed.
“I’m thrilled that we were able to compile a budget that meets the needs of the district and the community without increasing water rates,” said CVWD Board President John Powell, Jr.
CVWD provides a number of different water-related services to the community and, by law, must keep the funding and spending related to those services separate. Domestic water rates were increased last year to help respond to three key issues, but circumstances have changed in the past year. Water rates were increased in 2016 to help respond to three key issues that have changed over the past year.
One of the key factors was to help fund the largest capital improvement project in CVWD’s history as it responded to California’s new drinking water standard for chromium-6. However, CVWD halted the project when a new study showed promise in an alternative treatment that would be less expensive and have less impact on the community and the environment.
CVWD is among a number of water agencies in the state running pilot tests on the alternative treatment. In addition, a recent court ruling directed the state of California to rescind the water quality restriction on chromium-6 and develop a new one. It’s unclear how that ruling, which could still be appealed, will affect CVWD in the long term but minimal spending is expected in the next year.
Another key factor to last year’s rate increase was the need to compensate for reduced revenue from state-mandated conservation. Since the conservation mandates have been lifted, revenue has increased slightly more than originally projected.
Staff anticipates conservation will maintain at current levels throughout the next year.
The third key factor driving rate increases was costs related to system improvements needed to maintain the water delivery system that meets daily needs of approximately 290,000 residents. This need remains.
“We deferred numerous projects during the recession to avoid rate increases for five years, but many of those multi-year projects can no longer be delayed without risking system failures,” Powell said. “If necessary, I support using some of our reserves for these important projects.
Other rate changes
In separate action today, the Board approved an increase to the Replenishment Assessment Charge (RAC) for private groundwater pumpers in the West and Mission Creek subbassins, effective July 1, 2017. The RAC is used to fund the district’s groundwater replenishment program.
The West Whitewater River Subbasin RAC was increased from $128.80 per acre-foot to $143.80; the Mission Creek Subbasin RAC was increased from $123.20 per acre-foot to $135.52; the RAC for the East subbasin will remain at $66 per acre-foot.
In addition, the Board approved an increase to Canal water rates, effective July 1, 2017. The water rate for class 1 and class 2 users was increased from $33.48 per acre-foot to $34.32; the water supply charge for class 2 users was increased from $32.51 to $67.80.
On June 27, the Board will vote on restructuring sewer rates. The proposal will not increase revenue but simplify the rate structure based on the amount of water sent into the sewer system. If approved, it would result in some customers paying less and others paying more for sewer service. For those paying more, it will be the first increase since 2010.
The Coachella Valley Water District is a public agency governed by a five-member board of directors. The district provides domestic and irrigation water, agricultural drainage, wastewater treatment and reclamation services, regional storm water protection, groundwater management and water conservation. It serves approximately 109,000 residential and business customers across 1,000 square miles, located primarily in Riverside County, but also in portions of Imperial and San Diego counties.