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


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.