Thu04242014

Community

Cal Water meeting to inform residents about rate increase request

Los Altos residents could see nearly a 14 percent increase in their water rates in 2014 to offset repair costs.

California Water Service Co. officials submitted a rate request in the summer to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The results of an 18-month review process will determine whether the increase is approved.

Public input is part of the process. To solicit community opinion, Cal Water officials have scheduled a rate workshop 6 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Cal Water Field Office, 1555 Miramonte Ave., Los Altos. The meeting is designed to provide information on the company’s rate case application for the Los Altos district.

Representatives from Cal Water will provide details on planned water system improvements, how rates are set and additional information on water rates. Attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions.

Under the current request, rates for the typical residential customer would increase 13.9 percent, or $10.41 per month.

According to Cal Water rate case manager Tu Rush, the average customer, charged $74.65 now, would see an increase to $85.06 monthly.

Smaller, inflation-based increases could become effective in 2015 and 2016.

Cal Water officials emphasized that the rate increase may not be approved as is.

“During the 18-month review process, expense forecasts can be refined and capital projects can be deferred, resulting in a lower increase than initially requested,” according to a company statement.

Cal Water officials said the agency needs a rate increase to cover the higher expenses associated with operating the water system, especially because sales revenues have declined over the past three years.

“Unfortunately, water costs are rising. Many of them are increasing faster than the rate of inflation,” said Ron Richardson, Cal Water Los Altos district manager. “Water use is going down, and water utilities have fixed costs regardless of how much water customers use. That results in higher per-unit costs. The good news is, some variable costs decrease when customers use less water, and those cost decreases are factored in.”

Richardson said conservation could save customers money in the short term by reducing their monthly water bills, and in the long term by enabling Cal Water to avoid having to invest in new sources of supply to meet higher demand.

The CPUC is responsible for setting rates that reflect the actual dollar-for-dollar costs of providing water service and allow Cal Water to earn a return only on the funds it invests in water-system infrastructure.

Cal Water serves approximately 65,800 residents through 18,800 service connections in Los Altos and parts of Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Cupertino and Sunnyvale.

For more information, visit www.calwater.com.

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