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Pleasanton Considers Water Rate Increase

The proposal would increase rates by 7.2 percent.

Pleasanton residents may face their first water rate increase in nine years, targeting the heaviest water users and seniors who receive discounts.

The city is considering a 7.2 percent bump starting Aug. 1.

For the average consumer (someone who uses about 250 to 500 gallons a day), the increase would translate to paying $10.40 more bi-monthly.

The increase, presented to the City Council Tuesday night, would affect water rates, not sewer rates. The city bills its residents for both utilities on a bi-monthly period. 

The proposed increase is part of a larger effort to restructure water-sewer rates to address inflation and the rise in the wholesale price of water, and it takes into account water conservation and other efforts to be fiscally sustainable, said Daniel Smith, city director of operations services.

The proposal would change how rates are will be determined in the future. It calls for increasing base meter charges by 11 cents  for each billing period in 2010 to 2011, creating a fourth categorization for high water users and  changing the discount program for senior residents. 

"The city has exhausted all its other options in terms of cutting back and using reserves," Smith said.

Pleasanton gets its water from two sources -- ground water from city-owned wells and purchased water from Zone 7 of Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. Since 2001, Zone 7 rates have increased 54 percent.

Water distribution costs, which includes pumping, cost of chemicals and replacement of infrastructure, also have increased. But the city hasn't raised rates because it cut down on the personnel side to save money. Today, the utilities department has 20 percent less staff.

City Council members showed some frustration Tuesday over their inability to know more and have input on Zone 7 rate increases. They said Pleasanton residents' should provide more input in the process. 

"It's a little bit concerning," Councilman Jerry Thorne said. 

Pleasanton residents pay for water based on a fixed rate plus an additional charge based on how much water they use. The three tiers include low, moderate and high users of water.  The top third tier of users are charged a flat rate even if they go over 700 gallons a day. Under the proposal, a fourth tier would be created for single-family users who exceed that amount, assessing them a surcharge. 

Smith said that change would encourage high users to conserve. On average, Pleasanton residents use up 450 gallons a day compared to 290 gallons nationally. 

The proposal  also changes the senior discount program by raising the minimum age from 62 to 65. Currently, they get a discount no matter how much they use. The proposal would cap the discount beyond the "moderate" usage level (about 500 gallons per day). 

As mandated by Proposition 218, the city must now hold public meetings about the rates before finally voting on changes in June.  Workshops are scheduled for May 6 and May 20. 

Marnette Federis April 07, 2010 at 07:34 PM
What do you think about the water rate increase? Do you know a Pleasanton senior who would be affected by the change in the discount program. If you have any thoughts, leave them here or send them to marnette@patch.com.

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