Redlands’ water rate increases have done what was needed, utility says (July 29, 2017)
REDLANDS — One year after increasing water rates, the revenues have been what were expected, city officials say.
Rates went up 10.6 percent in July 2016, generating an additional 9.1 percent increase in revenue, helping the city cover its costs to deliver water and replace aging infrastructure.
“The reality is everything that we anticipated occurring is occurring,” said Chris Diggs, director of the Municipal Utilities and Engineering Department.
In May 2016, the City Council approved three years of rate increases. The second increase of about 10 percent went into effect this month. The third increase will be implemented in July 2018.
The additional revenue generated from the rate increases are meant to address a loss of revenue due to water conservation, needed pipeline replacements and inflation.
In 2015, the city saw a 20.1 percent reduction in water use compared with 2013. And in 2016, use went down by 23.2 percent, Diggs said.
Since the state lifted its agency-specific water conservation targets, Redlanders have continued to save water.
In fact, Diggs said, customers used 6 percent less water in 2016 than they did in 1986.
“That’s with all of the development we’ve had in the last 30 years, all of the homes that have been built, the businesses that have come to town,” Diggs said. “I think it’s impressive to note that our customers have been very diligent on conserving water as they are using 6 percent less water than they did 30 years ago.”
Diggs said operations have been cut as lean as possible and the city is still trying to get its arms around the amount of pipeline that needs to be replaced.
Prior to implementing the increase, the city had identified 25 miles of pipe that is on average more than 81 years old. The city estimated it would cost $22 million to replace the pipe.
Over the next year, the city plans to invest a little more than $7 million to construct about 8.5 miles of pipeline, Diggs said.
“With confidence I can say that we would not be putting in 8 miles of pipe if it had not been for the rate increases,” Diggs said.
Pipeline leaks have declined by a couple hundred per year from what the city was experiencing five to seven years ago, Diggs said, which is attributed to the amount of work and investment the city has put into replacing old pipe.
“Our pipeline maintenance costs increased significantly and now we’re starting to see those cost decrease because we’ve seen the frequency of leaks decline,” he said.
In 2016, many residents opposed the increases, but not enough to defeat the increase.
Although the council heard from more than three dozen water users opposing the rate increases, state law requires more than half of the city’s customers to submit written protests in order to stop the increases.
Carl Baker, city spokesman, said the city is keeping the promises it made to residents to improve city infrastructure and is using the money as intended.
“I want to remind the public that what we promised and showed them, we’re delivering,” he said. “I think as we do that we earn the trust of the residents.”
WATER RATE INCREASES
- July 2016: 10.6 percent
- July 2017: About 10 percent
- July 2018: Another increase expected
Source: Sandra Emerson, Redlands Daily Facts