At a special meeting, the City Council continued its discussion about the water and sewer rate study currently underway. This was a followup to a presentation held in June.
Under the current rate structure, the base monthly water bill includes a large allowance of water, which most customers never exceed. For those that do exceed the base allowance, additional costs are added to the monthly bill.
The State of California has begun implementation of water usage targets well below the city's current base monthly allowances. To meet these targets, Wasco is considering a rate structure that reduces the monthly base water charges, but also begins a reduction of the base water allowance over five years to match the state-mandated targets.
"This structure will give individual water customers more control over their water bill," said City Manager Scott Hurlbert. "The good news is we have a few years to adjust to the new usage targets, and those that take conservation seriously can avoid large increases by reducing usage."
With the proposed rate structure, there would be a decrease in the base monthly bill over five years. However, the allotted amount of water would also be decreased, and those going over the allotted amount would be required to pay more.
"If people don't use the water usage recommendation and continue to use the same allotment, their monthly bill will increase," said Mayor Gilberto Reyna.
More steps will follow this preliminary discussion. Later this month, there will be workshops with the City Council.
On Oct. 4, a draft report will be presented to the council, and on Oct. 18 the final draft will be submitted to the council.
On Nov. 4, customers will be mailed a Prop 218 notice of rate hearing. The Proposition 218 process ensures that the proposed rate changes are fully disclosed to the public, and the community has an opportunity to ask questions, propose modifications, and even protest the changes.
In November and December, there will be a 45-day Prop 218 waiting period, and ratepayer outreach will be conducted.
On Dec. 20, a Prop 218 hearing will be held, and by Jan. 1 of 2023, the finalized rates will be implemented.
"Our city needs to find a way to help residents conserve water by educating and encouraging them to use low flow shower heads, low water usage drip systems, low water use landscaping so that the amount of water each household uses can be decreased to the levels the state is requiring," Hurlbert said.
"We could probably look for some grant funding so we could promote water-wise usage."
"Our Public Works Department does a fantastic job operating reliable and cost-effective water and sewer systems. Even under the proposed rate changes, the City of Wasco water and sewer rates remain among the lowest in the region," he said.