As users conserve water, rates climb higher

There’s good news and bad news for Santa Clara Valley water users.

The good news: Rates are no longer set to go up by 31 percent next year. The bad news? Water board officials have approved a 19 percent rate hike, with future hikes likely if the drought continues.

The Mercury News reports, “San Jose resident Ruth Callahan, the only resident to publicly comment at the board meeting Tuesday night, said the board was not doing nearly enough to help prevent what she said was a major monetary sacrifice for Santa Clara County residents.

"Where do you cut, where do you sacrifice?" she said. "I'm the face of the rate payer, OK? I've been rate-increased to the max.

The issue points to a strange dichotomy in the water world. On the one hand, users are being asked to conserve water for the drought. But less water use means less money for local water districts, which forces them to raise raites. So customers are paying more for using less.

As the Merc reports, “Beau Goldie, the water district's CEO, said last week that the large rate increase was needed because of the drought. The district will lose $20 million this year if the public cuts water use by 20 percent, as the district has requested, he said.

"The district also will incur at least $42 million in other drought costs, he added. Among them: $22 million to buy water from sellers outside the county; $5 million for rebates to pay residents to remove lawns and replace old toilets and appliances; and $7 million to bring in water from a groundwater bank in Kern County."