Olivenhain district water bills to jump April 1


Residents in the Olivenhain Municipal Water District will see their bills go up, in the short term and probably in the long term.

The district’s board of directors on March 18 approved a new rate structure that will increase meter charges and water rates beginning April 1. Also, the board adopted a framework that would let it increase rates over the next five years.

The average residential water is $106.72 a month. This will bump up to $111.10, a 4.1 percent jump, starting April 1.

Heavy water users will be affected the most. For those with a 3/4-inch meter, a 6.2 percent hike will take effect for the highest use category and 9.8 percent for the tier below. Those who are in the “very low” use category will see a 2.3 percent increase and 3.1 percent for “low.”

A recent report from Raftelis Financial Consultants examined the water district’s fiscal outlook over the next decade and recommended rate increases, citing rising imported water prices. Also, the district is looking for additional revenue so it can complete infrastructure upgrades, like replacing key parts at the David C. McCollom Water Treatment Plant.

The district mailed 23,418 notices to residents about a Feb. 11 public hearing on the new rate structure. As of Feb. 2, the district received five letters against the rate plan.

In addition to the new rate structure, the board also approved a framework that would allow it to increase water bills up to 15 percent annually during a five-year period, from April 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2019. Each year, the board will analyze its fiscal standing and determine how much rates should rise.

“We do not anticipate over the next five years rate increases reaching the level of 15 percent per year,” said John Carnegie, water district staff analyst, in an email after the meeting.

“Rather, the 15 percent figure was set as an upper limit to protect OMWD’s fiscal health in the event that any of the costs to OMWD that we intend to pass through to customers escalates more than projected, and also to protect customers from more dramatic increases even if cost increases to OMWD exceed 15 percent.”

The district expects an annual 5 percent increase in water bills during the course of the five-year period.

Water costs, including water from the new Carlsbad Desalination Plant, represent 50 percent of the district’s operating budget, according to the agenda report.

“Without passing through significant and uncontrollable cost increases, the district will have difficulty sustaining operations to carry on its mission statement,” the agenda states.

The Olivenhain water district includes residents in the eastern half of the city, with the San Dieguito Water District covering coastal Encinitas communities.