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Metropolitan Water District rates to go up; frustrations at hearing

March 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A public hearing was held on Monday on a proposal for a two-year water rate hike that will affect 19 million people in Southern California.

The water rates are going up, but the question is, by how much?

"Typically the average consumer gets about half their water from Metropolitan, so it's about a two-and-a-half percent rate hike," said Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan Water District general manager.

The MWD's finance and insurance committee considered three proposed scenarios to increase rates and charges over two years. The committee heard from a large audience of supporters of the increase and detractors. Many of the opponents were bused in from San Diego County, where water districts have filed a lawsuit against the MWD.

"San Diego is buying less net water and using less water overall, but still, our rates increase. As we scrutinize what we are paying for, one thing has become clear. The Met is gouging San Diego ratepayers and businesses," said Paul Webster of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce.

Metropolitan Water District has three proposals for water rates. The highest increase would be 7.5 percent in the first year starting in 2012, 5 percent the next.

Some water districts support an increase, while other districts are strongly opposed to the water rate hikes.

"Until such time that the current inequitable, discriminatory rate structure is fixed, we cannot support any rate increases at Metropolitan Water District," said Michael Bardin of the Santa Fe Irrigation District.

Several individual water users also testified that they aren't happy with the proposed increases.

"You have no subsidy program, or no help available for them. Your rate hikes ... have gotten to the point of affecting real lives," said Jimmy Knox.

The board is going to meet on Tuesday, but the most likely option is for them to consider the testimony and alternatives some more, putting off a final decision until April.

It would appear that whenever a final vote is taken, water rates will eventually go up, and they will affect most of Southern California.


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