To the Editor: Questions water rate increase

The Indian Wells Valley Water District is now beginning to evaluate a new water fee structure that has been in development since early spring 2018. The initial assessment occurred at the July 9 WD monthly meeting. If you have concerns regarding the rates being charged by the WD, now is the time to get involved and stay involved. The next opportunity to participate will be July 31 at the WD workshop.

The contractor developing the new rates gave a top-level overview of the contractor-proposed rates, but no supporting data was provided. The briefing was included in the WD agenda packet, but nobody from the WD has yet seen a draft copy of the actual study. Any meaningful assessment of the new rates requires knowledge of the supporting material. The draft study report should have been available prior to the July 9 review. This management problem needs to be addressed.

The draft study report was scheduled for delivery by July 13. It wasn’t delivered. No one seems to know when it now will be delivered. WD staff and the WD chairman are claiming it will be available to the public by July 27, three days before the workshop. That timing meets the absolute minimum requirement for providing the documentation. Since the July 9 brief proposal appears to be a warmed-over version of the last rate study, interested individuals can get a head start by reviewing the 2015 IWVWD Water Rate Study, which is on the WD website.

I have been concerned about two issues regarding WD rates for the last several years. First, are people who are conserving water being overcharged? The fixed component of the water bill has been increased severely. To compensate for that, the WD has lowered the unit cost of Tier 1 water. The lowering of Tier 1 water cost has not helped low-income families much to tolerate the high fixed cost. But, the combination of the very high fixed fee and a low volumetric charge discourages water conservation. This practice needs to be thoroughly reviewed. The high fixed rate appears to be totally for the convenience of the WD rather than the benefit of the users or conservation.

Secondly, are the proposed rates actually compliant with the Proposition 218 requirement to be no higher than the actual cost of delivering the water to the meter? The last rate study did little or nothing to justify the rates. We need to do much, much better this time.

Water users concerned about water in our valley should participate in the July 31 workshop. Take the time to review the draft rate study report if you have time. You might also encourage the WD to have the documentation out more than three days prior to the workshop. The current anticipated minimum three-day review time is going to be marginal for anyone not familiar with the WD budget and current rate structure. Transparency needs to be more than a word used during election season.

Stan Rajtora

Story First Published: 2018-07-20