Olivenhain water district to vote on rate increase


Residents in the Olivenhain Municipal Water District could see their water bills go up.

The district’s board of directors is slated to consider a new rate structure at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at its headquarters, 1966 Olivenhain Road in Encinitas. The proposal, which needs a majority vote to pass, calls for upping meter charges and water rates.

The average residential water bill is $106.72 a month. This would increase to $111.10, a 4.1 percent jump, should the plan win approval.

Heavy water users would be affected the most under the proposal. Assuming a 3/4-inch meter, a 6.2 percent jump is planned for the highest use category and 9.8 percent for the tier below. Those who are in the “very low” use category would experience a 2.3 percent hike and 3.1 percent for “low.”

“We’re hoping to cause more conservation, especially at those highest rates,” said Kim Thorner, district general manager. “That’s conservation pricing.”

She noted the highest use category includes about 4 percent of customers, while representing 10 percent of water use.

The rate increase plan comes on the heels of a report from Raftelis Financial Consultants that analyzed the district’s fiscal outlook over the next decade. The Raftelis report found that largely because of rising imported water prices, the district should look at raising rates this year and beyond.

So, OMWD will also consider rate hikes of up to 5 percent each year from 2016 to 2019. In future years, Thorner said the district board would review its fiscal standing to determine whether an increase is necessary.

Thorner said in addition to imported water becoming more expensive, OMWD has infrastructure needs, including replacing key parts at the David C. McCollom Water Treatment Plant.

And in 2016, the district will have to begin paying for its share of the Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

The district’s most recent rate increase took effect last April, increasing bills 3 percent. Last fall, the Raftelis report stated that 15 of the county’s 21 water districts had higher average bills than OMWD.

The district mailed 23,418 notices to residents regarding next week’s meeting. As of Feb. 2, Thorner said OMWD had received one letter in support and five against the rate plan. If approved, the increased rates would take effect in April.

The district serves the eastern half of Encinitas, while the San Dieguito Water District covers the western part of the city.