Under fire from Pleasanton homeowners alarmed by rising water bills, the City Council Tuesday voted to suspend for one year the city's portion of the automatic Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase on water and sewer rates for 2017.
The move came after speakers told the council that their bills had increased by 30% or more although they had cut water usage by at least that much since the 2014 drought began.
City Manager Nelson Fialho said the council's action , while providing some relief to Pleasanton's utility customers, will result in an estimated loss in revenue to the city's Water and Sewer Fund of approximately $600,000. The shortfall will be managed by postponing some planned maintenance projects.
"Pleasanton, like many other water customers throughout the state, have seen their water rates increase as a result of the drought," he said. "But in our community, we want to provide a bit of relief to our customers in recognition of their conservation efforts, which exceeded the state mandate of 25% water reduction during the drought."
In October 2015, the city council approved a new master fee schedule for water and sewer rates and authorized automatic CPI based adjustments to the Pleasanton portion of customers' utility bills as a way to ensure the city's water and sewer enterprise funds remain solvent.
The water and sewer rates collected by the city are used for maintenance and operation of the distribution system, which enables the delivery of water to households and sewage to the Dublin San Ramon Sewer District (DSRSD) treatment plant.
The council voted unanimously to suspend this automatic increase for all of 2017.
With regard to Pleasanton's portion of the water and sewer utility managed by the city, Fialho explained:
"Using less water and paying more for it has been hard on all of us, and it's an understatement to say that water pricing is complicated. There are fixed costs to water and its delivery that will never go away, but we wanted to do something to give consumers a break.
"I'm just glad that the city is in the position to provide this relief, even if it is temporary."
Tri-Valley Water retailers including the city of Pleasanton, receive their water from the Zone 7 Water Agency, the Tri-Valley's water wholesale provider. The Zone 7 board is a separately elected governing body that sets rates on behalf of the region it serves.
The Zone 7 board of directors approved new water rates that will take effect in January 2017 and will increase the water portion of
consumers' utility bills by 18.7%, from $3.15 to $3.74 for every Ccf of water consumed.
Like many other water wholesalers that provide water throughout the state, the Zone 7 board approved the rate increase in order to recover revenues that were lost during the drought, as well as to maintain the
infrastructure needed for water delivery and to manage the groundwater basin.
The city's action Tuesday night is unrelated to the Zone 7 action to increase rates.
Councilwoman Kathy Narum, who with Councilwoman Karla Brown serve as liaison delegates from the council to Zone, told those who have complained about increased water bills, to take their concerns to the Zone 7 board directly.
The Zone 7 board meets on the third Wednesday of each month, with the next public meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 21 at 100 North Canyons Parkway in Livermore.
For more information on Zone 7, sign on to its Website at www.zone7water.com/