By Sandra G. Leon
The San Diego City Council on Tuesday voted to adjust water and sewer rates over the next four years in part to help fund a new recycled water program that is expected to provide a new source of drinking water for the City and to level sewer rates between single-family homes and other users.
Water rates will increase by 3% for all users next year to pass on higher rates being charged by the San Diego County Water Authority that imports water from Northern California for local agencies.
But sewer rates will increase next year only for single-family homes, which have been paying less than their fair share over the past few years due to a miscalculation by the City, and rates will decrease for multi-family residences which have been paying more than they should have under the current rates.
Rates for single-family homes will increase by about 17% next year, but rates for condos and apartments will decrease to even the burden on the differing types of customers.
The City’s water and sewer system is operated by the Public Utilities Department, a fee-generating agency that charges residents rates based on actual costs to run the citywide delivery system of over 3,400 miles of pipelines, 25,000 fire hydrants, and 49 pump stations to serve approximately 2.2 million residents.
The San Diego County Water Authority serves 24 cities and water districts throughout the county. The City of San Diego imports approximately 85% of its water. Other local water agencies generate some of their own local water, including Sweetwater Authority in the South Bay which operates its own desalination plant and underground wells, but also purchase most of their water from SDCWA.
San Diego’s Pure Water program is a 20-year plan to build three water purification stations to reclaim sewer wastewater and produce fresh drinking water for the region. The stations will filter wastewater then mix it with imported water at five existing reservoirs to supplement local water needs. When completed, the program is expected to provide about 48% of the region’s water needs.
The City Council approved the water rate on a 7 to 1 vote with only Councilman Chris Cate opposed to the plan, and Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert missing the meeting due to an illness.