Why Are CCWD Water Rates Rising Faster Than MWSD’s?


Posted by on Wed, July 15, 2009

Paul Perkovic is President of the Montara Water and Sanitary District Board of Directors and is currently a candidate for re-election in November 2009. Coastsider welcomes letters from all candidates for office.

Coastside County Water District (CCWD) approved an across-the-board 10% rate increase last night, bringing their cumulative rate increases from 2000 to 2009 to more than 113%.

Montara Water and Sanitary District (MWSD) approved a more complicated increase, ranging from 5% to 8%, last month, bringing the cumulative rate increase for base tier water consumption from 2000 to 2009 to just under 23%. (In comparison, Citizens Utilities had asked to increase rates over 108% during this same time period.)

For the first time in history, non-residential customers in CCWD will be paying more per hundred cubic feet (HCF, about 748 gallons) of water consumption than base-tier MWSD customers. This means water will cost some businesses, hotels, schools, etc., in Half Moon Bay and El Granada more per HCF than similar businesses in MWSD.

Why the dramatic difference in favor of MWSD?

The key factor affecting water costs is dependence on water purchased from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), which operates the Hetch-Hetchy water system. CCWD produced one-third of its water from local sources in 2000, but local supplies plummeted over 63% from 2000 to 2008. Meanwhile, purchases from the SFPUC skyrocketed nearly 50% over the same time period, nearly reaching the "supply assurance" in 2007. Total water produced or purchased by CCWD in 2007 was 20% more than in 2000. To its credit, CCWD’s water conservation efforts - voluntary rationing - decreased water demand about 9% from 2007 to 2008.

Nevertheless, in 2008 SFPUC water accounted for 89% of CCWD’s supply. Therefore, when costs for SFPUC water go up, so must CCWD water rates. And the Water Supply Improvement Program for the aging Hetch-Hetchy water system, costing over $4 billion, is expected to triple wholesale water costs over the next few years. CCWD’s rates must inexorably continue to go up and up and up.

For comparison, MWSD produces all water from local sources. Since the community acquired the water system from the previous corporate owner in August 2003, we have developed new local supply and rehabilitated existing supply sources. Like all water utilities, CCWD and MWSD both face higher energy costs, more stringent water quality standards, and higher construction costs for essential capital improvement projects.

Another coastside water agency, North Coast County Water District (NCCWD), which serves the City of Pacifica, has had higher rates for some rate tiers than either CCWD or MWSD since at least January 2008. While CCWD is 89% dependent on SFPUC for water, NCCWD purchases 100% of its water from the SFPUC. Their example is a harbinger of things to come for CCWD customers.

Didn’t MWSD’s rates go up $13.95% from the 7/12/07 rates that are (still) posted online?

Here’s what Paul Perkovic is NOT telling you when he writes “higher rates for some rate tiers”: While MWSD charges less per HCF for the range of 7-19 HCFs, that cost is MORE THAN OFFSET by an MWSD base rate that’s 3x more expensive.  Meaning, we MWSD customers pay WAY more for water than CCWD or NCCWD (Pacifica) customers: 

Service charges, as of today:
NCCWD: $11.04 base rate per month
CCWD:  $10.94 base rate per month
MWSD:  $35.05 base rate per month

Tier 1,  Typical household using 6 HCF, total cost per month for water:
NCCWD: $24.48
CCWD:  $32.36
MWSD:  $66.49
(MWSD is 51.3% more expensive than CCWD and 87.2% more than NCCWD)

Tier 2,  Typical household using 19 HCF, total cost per month for water:
NCCWD: $108.57
CCWD:  $ 85.80
MWSD:  $134.61
(MWSD is 36.3% more expensive than CCWD)

Tier 2-3,  Typical household using 30 HCF (that’s A LOT of water), total cost per month for water:
NCCWD: $181.89
CCWD:  $164.54
MWSD:  $256.84
(MWSD is 35.9% more expensive than CCWD)

And isn’t it also true that, as of a couple of years ago, MWSD rates were the 2nd highest in the entire County?! Are we #1 now?

Joel, perhaps unintentionally, entirely missed the point of my original posting:

CCWD’s and NCCWD’s rates are going up 4 to 5 times faster than MWSD’s. The short and long-term impact on Coastside residents and businesses, especially agriculture and floriculture, are frightening.

Here is the approximate average monthly residential water bill for each agency:

CCWD - $49.40 - up more than 113% since 2000
NCCWD - $51.48 - up more than 131% since 2000
MWSD - $74.35 - up LESS THAN 25% since 2000

If these trends continue for another 5 or 6 years, both CCWD and NCCWD customers will be paying more for water than MWSD’s customers, primarily because of the astronomical $4.6 billion cost of the SFPUC’s Hetch Hetchy Water System Improvement Program, which won’t be completed until December 2015 at the earliest.

Parts of that system were built in the early 1900s, are nearing the end of their working life, and have critical portions crossing over or near three major earthquake faults. A significant earthquake on any of these faults could cause a catastrophic system failure, with no water service to some areas for up to 30 days, if not more, according to the SFPUC. CCWD depends on the SFPUC for 90% of its water supply.

To refute Joel’s closing claim, as of July 2008, the average monthly residential water bill was higher than for MWSD in these nearby water districts:

$91.01 - California Water Service - Bear Gulch District
$121.50 - Purissima Hills
$122.80 - Skyline
$142.34 - Hillsborough

In addition Burlingame, Mid-Peninsula, and Palo Alto were within 10% of MWSD’s average bill, and are also facing rate increases due to SFPUC costs.

The days of Citizens Utilities unconscionable rate increases are long gone, thanks to the support of the Montara / Moss Beach community and the work of the MWSD Board. When the community acquired the local water system, your MWSD Board promised to keep rate increases within reason while upgrading and improving the system.

We have kept that promise.