RIVERSIDE - During its regularly scheduled Board Meeting on Wednesday, April 7, the Western Municipal Water District (Western) Board of Directors heard recommendations from staff to consider a four-year adjustment to water and sewer rates and service charges. The Western Board moved the recommendation forward for a Public Hearing set for Wednesday, June 2 at 6 p.m.
On Monday, March 22, Western staff concluded a series of three water and sewer rate workshops hosted for the Board of Directors. The workshops were open to and attended by the public. The proposed adjustment will help water and sewer rates keep pace with the increasing costs of providing safe, reliable, high-quality water and sewer services.
A series of customer information sessions will also be held on Thursday, April 22 at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. for Riverside customers, and Wednesday, April 28 at 6 p.m. for Murrieta customers.
An overall median residential rate increase of 2.1 to 3.5 percent is being proposed and could take effect with bills issued on or after July 1, 2021, with increases every year for an additional three years. The change amounts to an average monthly bill impact of $2.33 to $3.90.
“Without adequate rates, our infrastructure would weaken because we would not be able to keep up with crucial repairs, system improvements, or keep the highly specialized staff it takes to operate this essential system 24/7/365,” said Western’s General Manager Craig Miller. “Our focus is making sure this system continues to operate for generations to come, for our kids and grandkids.”
Between 35 and 50 percent of all associated costs included in the proposed rate adjustment are outside of Western’s control because they are related to the purchase and delivery of imported water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California or local supplies from the City of Riverside in the Riverside service area and Eastern Municipal Water District in the Murrieta service area. The remaining costs are associated with the operation, maintenance, and administration of Western’s local system comprised of 776 miles of pipeline, 128 pumps, 38 water storage reservoirs, 24 lift stations, and two sewer treatment plants.
Periodically, Western studies the need for rate adjustments in consideration of the rising costs of imported water, operations, maintenance, environmental and regulatory compliance.
“Water from snowpack and rainfall may be free but getting it to our customers is not. As a municipal water district, we do not make a profit and our rates only cover the cost to store, treat and deliver water and sewer—and these costs continue to rise,” said Western’s Chief Financial Officer Rod LeMond. “While we understand that it’s difficult to see rates increase, even in a pandemic, our customers are counting on us to provide these essential services.”
Western keeps costs as low as possible by improving business and operational efficiencies, adopting advanced asset management systems, and seeking grant funding from local, state and federal programs.
Western has been working to enhance its grant procurement efforts—seeking grant funding to support critical projects. In the past five years, Western has been awarded more than $27 million to support major infrastructure improvements, regional partnerships and customer technology.
If approved, residential, commercial businesses, agricultural, landscape, and commercial customers with private fire service and those that receive sewer service from Western will be affected by the rate adjustment.
The last time Western's Board moved to adopt a new rate series was in 2017, which spanned a three-year period.
Western’s Board of Directors will officially consider adopting the proposed water and sewer rate and service charge increase at the formal Public Hearing set for Wednesday, June 2 at 6 p.m. Western customers may comment at the hearing regarding the proposed changes or submit a written letter of support or opposition to the proposed increases. Written letters must follow specific criteria to be considered valid. Instructions can be found at wmwd.com/2021ProposedRates.
Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, all meetings will be held virtually via Zoom. For anyone unable to attend a virtual Board meeting, written comments must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. the day before the meeting at wmwd.com/PublicComment or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Following the meeting, a recording of the workshop will be posted to Western’s website.
For more information about the proposed rates, upcoming meetings or ways to join the conversation and stay informed, visit wmwd.com/2021ProposedRates.
Western Municipal Water District is one of the largest public agencies in Riverside County, providing water and wastewater (sewer) services to nearly a million people, both retail and wholesale customers who live, work and play within 527 square miles in one of California’s most populous regions. Learn more: wmwd.com.