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City Council to Consider Doubling Water Rates by 2024

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica

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By Jorge Casuso

January 27, 2020 -- Santa Monica residents could see water rates double over the next five years under hikes the City Council will consider Tuesday.

Under the proposed rates, starting this year the bi-monthly water and wastewater bill for a single family home would increase by $36 every year over the next five years.

An 8-unit multi-family building would see bimonthly rates increase by $48 over the same period -- or about $6 per unit--, while the average commercial bimonthly bill would jump by $87.

The rate hikes are needed "to maintain current levels of service and reliability and achieve the City’s goal of water self-sufficiency by 2023,"staff wrote in their report to the Council .

"Without the proposed rate increase, achieving water self-sufficiency by 2023 will not be feasible," staff said.

The City -- which owns a substantial supply of water in the West Los Angeles area -- has previously set similar goals to wean itself from relying on outside water sources.

During a severe drought in 2015, the City raised rates and imposed a 2020 goal of water self-sufficiency it failed to meet.

That target was pushed back to 2023 in large part due to new regulations imposed by the State that required extensive study, water officials said.

As a result, Santa Monica continues to import about 30 percent of its water from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), said Sunny Wang, the City's Water Resources Manager.

"We're not trying to increase water supply," Wang said. "We're pretty flat. We're a built out City."

In addition to boosting the City's water conservation efforts, the new rates will help pay to replace two miles of water infrastructure a year on a 100-year replacement cycle, he said.

That cost has risen under the current construction boom from $2 million five years ago to $6 million now, according to Wang.

Even with the proposed increases, Wang said, Santa Monica's water rates will remain below those of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Culver City, which also will have to jack up rates.

That's due to the foresight of City leaders who more than a century ago formed municipal water companies to supply Santa Monica's water, Wang said.

Today, a total of ten wells supply about half of the City's water, an amount City officials would like to increase to 60 percent, he said.

Of the revenues generated by the rate hikes, "a lot are (for) investing in the future, as well as for now," Wang said.

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