New program to help customers with water bills

SAN DIEGO – A program to help financially struggling San Diegans pay their water bills is scheduled to begin Saturday, according to a presentation delivered to the City Council’s Environment Committee Thursday.

The H2O SD program — funded by donations by Service Line Warranties of America and Qualcomm totaling more than $160,000 — will provide low-income residents a $100 bill credit once a year.

“Anything is better than zero,” said Wilson Kennedy, the program manager. “A hundred (dollars) will go a long way.”

City officials expect to be able to help 500 families annually, who will be qualified by 211 San Diego, a resource and information hub.

Kennedy said around 3 to 4 percent of the city’s 250,000 or so residential water customers are receiving assistance in other areas.

More donations will be needed from companies, philanthropists and other customers to keep the program going in the future, according to Kennedy.

He said tax deductible donations can be made on the city Public Utilities Department’s website or mobile app, and can be as simple as rounding up a bill or setting up a recurring contribution. Clicking on the “Donate Now” button will take users to the San Diego Foundation’s website.

Donors can also provide gifts directly through the foundation via its website, and choosing “City of San Diego H2O SD” from the dropdown menu.

State law requires that government-run utilities only charge customers their share of costs so that one class of customer doesn’t subsidize another. According to the City Attorney’s office, the only way to provide help for economically disadvantaged residents is via donations.