Help California wildfire victims

Water Authority approves 3.7% rate hike

SAN DIEGO -- Rates charged by the San Diego County Water Authority to its 24 member agencies in the region will increase 3.7 percent next year, according to a budget approved Thursday by the authority's Board of Directors.

The SDCWA said the rate hike is the smallest in the past decade. The Water Authority collects imported and locally generated water and sends it to local districts -- the city of San Diego and Helix Water District, for example - - which sells the water to customers.

Any amount of the increase passed on to customers will be determined by the local districts.

The SDCWA board approved a $1.58 billion budget for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years, a 2 percent increase from the current two-year spending plan it says is due largely to increasing water supply and treatment costs.

"After emerging from five years of drought with greater water supply reliability than we had going in, this two-year budget enables us to continue providing safe and reliable water at the lowest possible cost for our region's 3.3 million people and $222 billion economy," said Mark Muir, board chairman. "Careful reviews of staffing needs and programs have maximized our efficiency, while prudent financial practices contain our costs and maintain our strong credit ratings and reputable financial standing."

Water Authority officials said more than 91 percent of the budget is for water purchase and treatment costs, plus building or financing infrastructure.

While the costs of buying and treating water are projected to rise by $130.7 million, they are partially offset in the adopted budget by a $99.9 million reduction in capital improvement spending and stored water purchases.

The SDCWA also plans to improve security for its infrastructure and technology, including studying a fiber optic communication system, increased video surveillance at facilities and more around-the-clock staffing at its operations control room.