State’s drought plan leads to OMWD rate hike


Responding to a state mandate to cut water use, the Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s board on May 13 approved rate increases that will take effect July 1.

The average Olivenhain district resident uses 22 units of water a month, resulting in a $111.10 bill, which is due to increase 3.2 percent to $114.64.

Heavy water users will see their bills go up by a higher percentage, while those who use little will be minimally impacted by the rate increase. The new rates will also hit commercial customers.

“I don’t take any great joy in raising rates, but given the situation we’re in statewide, I don’t know if we really have that much of a choice,” board member Larry Watt said.

The “drought rates” came about in response to the State Water Resources Control Board recently ordering water districts to cut back. The Olivenhain district’s share: 36 percent. It’s expected the rate increase will reduce water sales by about 25 percent, according to a staff report on the matter.

Drought rates aim to spark conservation, as well as stabilize the district’s budget by adding revenue to make up for lost water sales.

Watt said a major goal of the rate increase was to lessen the impact on low water users. He added that’s in line with direction from the state, which wants to see a big drop in outdoor watering.

The vote in favor of drought rates was 4-0, with board President Ed Sprague absent. The agenda item didn’t draw any public speakers.

The new state rules will start in the May 15 to June 1 time frame, and districts that don’t meet reduction targets could be fined up to $10,000 a day. State officials will gauge whether agencies are complying with cutback targets by looking at their 2013 water consumption as a baseline.

Currently, the Olivenhain district’s reduction figure is 36 percent, but staff members believe this will be reduced to 32 percent based on updated population figures.

The district will also drive conservation by limiting landscape watering starting June 1 to two days a week. The current drought Level 2 restriction is three days a week.

And the district will be quicker to hand out citations for those violating drought restrictions, such as the prohibition on hosing down sidewalks and driveways. Beginning June 1, residents will receive a single warning, but then be fined for a second violation.