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City Poised to Hike Water Rates


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Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that Santa Monica's water rates would double under this year's adjustment. It is the annual adjustment that would double.

January 4, 2019 -- After three years of 5 percent increases, Santa Monica's water rates will go up 9 percent under the annual adjustment the City Council is expected to approve Tuesday.

The adjustment would result in a $4.33 per month rate increase for the average single-family home customer, City officials said.

The adjustment would take place retroactively on January 1.

The new rate is still "significantly lower" than rates in nearby agencies, including Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Culver City, according to the Water Resources staff.

"Staff is conscious of the adverse impact of increasing water costs on residential and business customers, although our water rates continue to be on the lower end of Southern California water agencies," staff wrote in its report to the Council.

"Ultimately, however, maintaining safe and reliable drinking water supply is not only essential, but investment now in that system will be less expensive in the long run than deferring maintenance and continuing to rely on imported water supplies."

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The 9 percent increase the the highest allowed under a rate plan approved by the Council for the period of March 1, 2015, through December 31, 2019.

The Council's first adjustment under the plan was also 9 percent, before it suspended a portion of the annual rate adjustments to 5 percent for calendar years 2016, 2017 and 2018.

This year's annual adjustment comes after the Council approved an updated Sustainable Water Master Plan last November that officials expect will make the City independent of outside water sources by 2023.

"The Council’s "reaffirmation of that policy," staff said, "is the basis for this year’s rate adjustment recommendation."

The Council in November also dedicated $64.1 million in pollution settlement funds for Olympic Sub-basin Restoration.

The rate increase would fund the $3.25 million purchase of a new groundwater well, $3.18 million for "preliminary design enhancements for the Arcadia treatment plant" and annual water main replacements, staff said.

The increase will also "insulate ratepayers from Metropolitan Water District imported water cost increases" and "maintain the recommended $7 million Water Fund reserve," staff said.

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