The Rancho Santa Fe Post

Water News: Why ARE Your Water Bills So High?

As you may recall, the proposed Cost of Service Study (COSS) water rate increases were not approved at the Dec. 20th SFID Board meeting, on a 3-2 vote against. SFID is in the process of holding a COSS Workshop on March 21st, to reconsider the COSS analysis. The District’s increased costs, COLA & wholesale water increases, will eventually reduce reserves. Only customers from the Covenant were in attendance, giving public testimony expressing concern and dismay over increasing water bills.

This column discusses crucial SFID OVERHEAD FACTORS which contribute to high water bills of those customers with properties larger than the average “city-sized” lot in Solana Beach.

Two important terms: “capacity” (size of your water meter) and “peak” (using more water than the Winter Quarter Average of 37 hcf). If you’re a customer who irrigates your property during the summer, fall and early winter, you’re considered a customer who puts peak demand on the system, and therefore is currently charged an additional third of all SFID overhead – in addition to the actual cost of water. Capacity charges are based on MEU (meter equivalency units). In 2016 there were 3652 ¾” meters; 2339 1” meters (1.6 MEU); 989 1.5” meters (3 MEU); 329 2” meters (5.2 MEU).

Administrative and Operating 6% customer (everyone’s bill is charged the exact same amount)
Salaries and Benefits 28% base charge (all customers pay a part of the base charge)
13% local water (all customers pay a part of the local water charge)
24% capacity (costs based on MEU, meter equivalency unit)
28% peak (only customers using more than 37 hcf/billing period)
1% fire
Engineering Salaries and Benefits 34% base; 30% capacity; 34% peak; 2% fire meters
Badger Treatment Plant Costs 35% base; 30% capacity; 35% peak
Conservation Costs 100% peak

 

Pension Costs illustrate the impact of the above percentages. Important fact: additional employees are not required to produce more water for larger properties. Customers with larger properties pay 34-35% more of the pension obligations than customers, mostly in Solana Beach, who use around 37 hcf/billing period.

  • Customers with 1” meters pay 1.6 times the pension costs of customers with ¾” meters.
  • Customers with 11/2” meters pay 3 times the pension costs of customers with ¾” meters.
  • Customers with 2” meters pay 5.2 times the pension costs of customers with ¾” meters.

At the December COSS Public Hearing, I inquired of District staff and the attending Carollo Engineer if customers with large properties pay a percentage of pension obligations through their base charge and an additional percentage through their capacity charge and an even bigger percentage through their peak charge. Neither gave an answer. I will ask this question again March 21st.

March 21, 2019 Board of Directors Meeting: Start time 8:30am. A Cost of Service Study Workshop will be held directly after the Regular Meeting, most likely around 9:30am. Exact start time of COSS Workshop is currently unavailable. Check SFID website after 2/15/19 for time specific start of COSS Workshop.

Monthly Water Usage: Dec. 2018 164 r-gpcd “residential-gallons/capita/day” (1.15” rainfall); Nov. 2018 355 r-gpcd (1.5” rainfall)

And now…for something out of this world:

Readers know my interest in getting more girls in the STEM game. Below is a link to a fascinating, easy to understand New York Times article, “The Little NASA Spacecraft That Could, No Longer Can.” The Kepler spacecraft was sent into orbit 9 ½ years ago, and though it developed a technical failure, Kepler is yet again a wonderful example of the brains at NASA working the problem, thinking outside the box, and re-programming Kepler to ultimately discover there are more planets than stars in our galaxy.

William Borucki, the principal physicist who led the Kepler mission until he retired in 2015, spent his Midwest youth shooting off homemade rockets, hoping they wouldn’t hit a neighbor’s cow. Borucki’s work underpins determining whether many of these planets may be just warm enough to have liquid water on their surface, “a situation conducive to the existence of life”. The NYT article said it was impossible to overstate the impact of Kepler. Borucki noted when scientists first started conceiving of the mission 35 years ago, they didn’t know of a single planet outside our solar system. Kepler’s findings set the agenda for the next 50 years; younger scientists are flocking into the field. Share the article with children and grandchildren. Go outside on a clear night with your children or grandchildren or neighborhood children and look up. Unleash their imaginations. #MorePlanetsThanStars Get girls into STEM.