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Pleasanton council votes to initiate Stage 2 drought water rates

Extra charge to start May 1; city maintains 15% mandatory conservation order

Water rates are set to go up in Pleasanton effective in the coming weeks after the City Council voted to activate new drought rates for all city water customers amid the ongoing supply shortage locally and statewide.

The Stage 2 drought rates, which will add an extra charge across the board based on usage, including 65 cents per unit of water for single-family residential customers, aim to incentivize conservation amid the drought while also serving to help shore up the city's struggling water utility fund that is down more than $3 million in revenue this fiscal year, city officials said.

"Where we are now, I just don't think we really have a lot of choice," Councilmember Kathy Narum said toward the end of the discussion at the March 15 council meeting. "I don't like it. I wish it would rain ... I think this is one of those things where, you know, begrudgingly I'm going to support it."

"We do absolutely have to keep ourselves financially healthy," Mayor Karla Brown added. "The rates, in the example from staff, show ... you reduce 15% and in this tough time your bill is virtually the same. We understand people are on a budget, and so is the city. And we've got PFAS and we've got a lot of water projects coming up."

"We're in a drought. Everybody's going to use less water. We're going to turn the faucet off more. We're going to water less. We're going to take shorter showers. And 15% is reasonable to achieve," Brown said. "Let's hope we get some rain because the next phase is going to be much more painful."

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The vote to enact Stage 2 drought rates was 4-1, with Councilmember Julie Testa in dissent.

"It seems really unreasonable to say conserve and we're going to penalize you and charge you more -- and we're going to be looking at these other future increases," Testa said, referring to the results of the city's water and sewer rate studies due out later this year. "I'm not comfortable with this."

Councilmember Jack Balch also voiced apprehension about imposing drought rates across the board, specifically as it pertains to low water users who have already conserved greatly, but he ultimately sided with the majority in the end.

Back in October, council members declared a Stage 2 water shortage and mandated city users reduce their potable water usage by 15% during the drought, but they held off on imposing any drought rates or excess use penalties at that time.

Heavy rainfall and snow statewide in late 2021 helped the region with local supply and some water reservoir recovery, but significantly low precipitation in the early months of 2022 has added new strain to water supply sources, city officials told the council.

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Additionally, Pleasanton water customers met or exceeded the 15% reduction target in October through December, but usage ticked up to 8% above the baseline target in January, the last full month with data available, according to city staff.

The city's water department is down $3.2 million in revenue this fiscal year compared to budget estimates, due in part to the 15% water conservation, putting significant pressure on the water utility's budget.

There is also a need to maintain consistent funding in the water department, along with retaining adequate reserve levels, for when the city soon seeks bonds to help pay for high-cost infrastructure projects around its groundwater wells and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, officials said.

"We're going to need to have a reserve to meet the bond covenants if we issue bonds to finance the PFAS and the drilling of the new well and everything. And if we don't keep the reserves up at this point, we're going to have to have a bigger raise to meet the bond covenants when we get to that point," Narum said.

Imposing drought rates across the board -- rather than doing excess-use penalties that target only customers who fail to reduce usage by 15% or more, which do have enforcement and administrative costs -- would be the best strategy to shore up the water fund budget and reserves, city staff said.

"The purpose of the drought rates is to help keep the city's utility financially sustainable during a drought or water shortage emergency. Drought rates help offset the revenue impacts of decreased consumption while also providing an additional incentive to conserve water and discourage wasteful or inefficient water use through pricing," city officials said in their staff report to the council.

The Stage 2 drought water rates will add an extra charge of 65 cents per unit (centum cubic feet, or CCF) of water for single-family residential and irrigation customers, and 62 cents per unit for commercial and multifamily customers.

They are scheduled to take effect on May 1, with the first charge appearing on the customer's ensuing bimonthly bill.

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Pleasanton council votes to initiate Stage 2 drought water rates

Extra charge to start May 1; city maintains 15% mandatory conservation order

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Mar 30, 2022, 10:54 pm

Water rates are set to go up in Pleasanton effective in the coming weeks after the City Council voted to activate new drought rates for all city water customers amid the ongoing supply shortage locally and statewide.

The Stage 2 drought rates, which will add an extra charge across the board based on usage, including 65 cents per unit of water for single-family residential customers, aim to incentivize conservation amid the drought while also serving to help shore up the city's struggling water utility fund that is down more than $3 million in revenue this fiscal year, city officials said.

"Where we are now, I just don't think we really have a lot of choice," Councilmember Kathy Narum said toward the end of the discussion at the March 15 council meeting. "I don't like it. I wish it would rain ... I think this is one of those things where, you know, begrudgingly I'm going to support it."

"We do absolutely have to keep ourselves financially healthy," Mayor Karla Brown added. "The rates, in the example from staff, show ... you reduce 15% and in this tough time your bill is virtually the same. We understand people are on a budget, and so is the city. And we've got PFAS and we've got a lot of water projects coming up."

"We're in a drought. Everybody's going to use less water. We're going to turn the faucet off more. We're going to water less. We're going to take shorter showers. And 15% is reasonable to achieve," Brown said. "Let's hope we get some rain because the next phase is going to be much more painful."

The vote to enact Stage 2 drought rates was 4-1, with Councilmember Julie Testa in dissent.

"It seems really unreasonable to say conserve and we're going to penalize you and charge you more -- and we're going to be looking at these other future increases," Testa said, referring to the results of the city's water and sewer rate studies due out later this year. "I'm not comfortable with this."

Councilmember Jack Balch also voiced apprehension about imposing drought rates across the board, specifically as it pertains to low water users who have already conserved greatly, but he ultimately sided with the majority in the end.

Back in October, council members declared a Stage 2 water shortage and mandated city users reduce their potable water usage by 15% during the drought, but they held off on imposing any drought rates or excess use penalties at that time.

Heavy rainfall and snow statewide in late 2021 helped the region with local supply and some water reservoir recovery, but significantly low precipitation in the early months of 2022 has added new strain to water supply sources, city officials told the council.

Additionally, Pleasanton water customers met or exceeded the 15% reduction target in October through December, but usage ticked up to 8% above the baseline target in January, the last full month with data available, according to city staff.

The city's water department is down $3.2 million in revenue this fiscal year compared to budget estimates, due in part to the 15% water conservation, putting significant pressure on the water utility's budget.

There is also a need to maintain consistent funding in the water department, along with retaining adequate reserve levels, for when the city soon seeks bonds to help pay for high-cost infrastructure projects around its groundwater wells and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, officials said.

"We're going to need to have a reserve to meet the bond covenants if we issue bonds to finance the PFAS and the drilling of the new well and everything. And if we don't keep the reserves up at this point, we're going to have to have a bigger raise to meet the bond covenants when we get to that point," Narum said.

Imposing drought rates across the board -- rather than doing excess-use penalties that target only customers who fail to reduce usage by 15% or more, which do have enforcement and administrative costs -- would be the best strategy to shore up the water fund budget and reserves, city staff said.

"The purpose of the drought rates is to help keep the city's utility financially sustainable during a drought or water shortage emergency. Drought rates help offset the revenue impacts of decreased consumption while also providing an additional incentive to conserve water and discourage wasteful or inefficient water use through pricing," city officials said in their staff report to the council.

The Stage 2 drought water rates will add an extra charge of 65 cents per unit (centum cubic feet, or CCF) of water for single-family residential and irrigation customers, and 62 cents per unit for commercial and multifamily customers.

They are scheduled to take effect on May 1, with the first charge appearing on the customer's ensuing bimonthly bill.

Comments

PtownerSince94
Registered user
another community
on Mar 31, 2022 at 10:23 am
PtownerSince94, another community
Registered user
on Mar 31, 2022 at 10:23 am

California already has the strictest water rationing regulations in the country. Most people do their part with real effort, but conserving more is becoming evermore difficult. The state and local water agencies as well as governments need to face reality and start enacting policies and projects to INCREASE the amount of water going forward even in drought conditions. There are choices: more reservoirs (probably not viable politically given the environmental pressures in CA), desalinization plants (we have a HUGE water source called the Pacific ocean), water reuse for irrigation, ...We have a state budget surplus. Why not start using some of it to fund projects that actually INCREASE the water supply?


Rosemary Patterson
Registered user
Pleasanton Valley
on Mar 31, 2022 at 10:35 am
Rosemary Patterson, Pleasanton Valley
Registered user
on Mar 31, 2022 at 10:35 am

We have continued to follow water-saving practices since the last drought. We save “warm up” water in buckets and use it for watering outdoor plants. We take “navy showers” turning off the water while we shampoo or soap-up. We have put in artificial turf to conserve even more on outdoor watering. Water doesn’t run for tooth-brushing or hand-washing. HOW will we conserve more without giving up showering or cooking? And yet, we will be penalized with increased rates; and all this while people and businesses who can afford the increases continue to use more than their fair share of this precious resource. Rationing water, per person in a household, seems much more equitable. This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable or undoable work around.


BobB
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Mar 31, 2022 at 5:15 pm
BobB, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Mar 31, 2022 at 5:15 pm

PtownerSince94,

NIMBYs continue to resist any efforts to increase the supply of water so they can claim that we can't build anything due to lack of water supply. It's all about that.


Becky
Registered user
Livermore
on Mar 31, 2022 at 5:19 pm
Becky, Livermore
Registered user
on Mar 31, 2022 at 5:19 pm

I hope Livermore doesn't charge the penalties like they did last drought. The penalties were based on averaged usage from previous two years I believe, and we had more people in our home, and also had planted drought-tolerant plants in place of the bare dirt and dead plants previous owners had. We were fined $53 for using 7cfm, while my neighbor used 25 cfm and they did not incur a fine. Just because they had used a ton of water the previous two years. I would rather see rules like:
Water running on pavement or gutter equals fine
Swimming pools must be covered to prevent evaporation
Broken sprinkler equals fine
No permits for new pools
etc.


Michael Austin
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 31, 2022 at 8:14 pm
Michael Austin , Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on Mar 31, 2022 at 8:14 pm

We lost eight fruit trees in the previous drought.
We no longer have a robust garden; we no longer can and freeze food due to water consumption to grow food.

We replaced all three flush toilets, all sinks and shower fixtures with water miser fixtures. We wash cloths and use dishwasher one day each week. We replaced our lawn with mulch. I now use weed killer a couple times each month. We cannot reduce any more, we maxed out everything.

One option remaining: To dig a deep hole in the back yard, erect a structure as an outhouse.


Erlinda
Registered user
Danbury Park
on Apr 6, 2022 at 10:25 am
Erlinda , Danbury Park
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2022 at 10:25 am

Drought drought, what’s causing the drought?
Too much or excessive heat. I will keep on saying it.
Traffic creates excessive heat. Fuel or gas alone has already warm temperature in it. Imagine during high temperature plus traffics plus our air conditioners that blows heat and there are thousands of them during this heat time. This heat will stop the moisture evaporation to become rain. And without rain more big problems are coming, like fires that blows tremendous amount of heat and smokes, dries up even more fresh water.
This guaranteed will and would dried up our precious fresh water.
Desalination ocean water, how could we use it in big farms?
Thanks to those people who conserve our precious water.


vp
Registered user
Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 6, 2022 at 11:37 am
vp, Vintage Hills Elementary School
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2022 at 11:37 am

The above rate is an increase across the board. It has nothing to do with conservation, as there is no prior year use conservation target to hit, after which you will be charged more.

Pleasanton has hiked by almost 300% the variable water rate distribution charges to enrich their bottom line, using the stage 2 drought as the pretext.

They will bring in 4 years worth of variable water revenue in 1 year and you will be charged triple, whether you use 1 ccf of water or 10ccf.

It’s not to “help” you conserve, it’s helping themselves to your conservation revenue.


ddclausen
Registered user
Old Towne
on Apr 8, 2022 at 11:42 am
ddclausen, Old Towne
Registered user
on Apr 8, 2022 at 11:42 am

Why haven't Livermore and Pleasanton started working on a plan to deliver recycled water for residential irrigation? The infrastructure already exists in Pleasanton as all our parks, schools, and public places are using recycled water (purple pipes). This includes Hacienda Business Park.


keeknlinda
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Apr 13, 2022 at 3:40 pm
keeknlinda, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Apr 13, 2022 at 3:40 pm

For starters, Becky refers to how many cfm her family used. Zone 7 and Pleasanton outreach efforts to help residents understand water delivery are utter failures. The term "cfm" isn't used in water-speak. d. The water terms are AF(acre-feet), HCF (hundred cubic feet) CCfalso is hundred cubic feet, just to confuse folks a bit more. Those are called a Unit, aka 748 gallons of water. We buy gasoline, milk and other beverages by the gallon, so why can't they just put it on the bill that way?l.
My friend Google tells me average individual water use ranges from 80 to 200 gallons a day. in 2019, the State of California set a 55 gal/day indoor use limit.
Web Link
Great idea, except there's no way to measure it, with only 1 meter, who knows what is used indoors and what outdoors? Or how many people live there and how many are visitors.
There is a target to hit, vp, and that target is 2020, 2 years ago. That's a bad target because by then most were already conserving making further cutbacks a genuine hardship for many.
These agencies need to return to the drawing board, get real about customers and help what will get us to work together to ease the burden on a dwindling supply, work harder toward storage solutions, and quit muddying the waters with nonsensical non-explanations designed to squeeze our wallets to breaking. We really are in trouble, folks, and it's gonna be up to us to make them help get us out of it.
The only problem is households only get 1 meter, so there's no way to figure which is indoor and which is out. No worries.


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