Water Districts, Under Pressure

Ever since we started the CA Drought Monitor back in February 2017, our company has been through a whirlwind. By quickly creating a ravenous community around a serious and often misrepresented topic–“Water”–#P attracted the attention of a number of water districts throughout the State of California. Especially since these water districts are starting to see more of this:

Bottom line: residents are upset their rates are going up. They keep being told to conserve, while supply is the highest its been in 7 years.

There are legit reasons rates are rising, and there are inexplicable money grabs happening. Let me see if I can explain the differences, and who’s responsible:

Infrastructure – Most CA water distribution is done on infrastructure that was built in the 1900’s. With populations rising, this infrastructure needs to be replaced in favor of IoT/sensor driven models that reduce maintenance and extend infrastructure investment. Generally speaking, this investment happens in your local district.

Delta Bay WaterFix – Another type of infrastructure relief is redirection of existing water ways (State Water Project, Colorado River Canal, etc). A newly proposed route, the CA WaterFix, is an ingenious plan to burrow (2) 40′ tubes 150′ below land and have it run under the Delta Bay sensitive areas. This means: no disruption to sensitive ecosystems, reduces Bay salinity, and encourages ground water replenishment for agricultural end-points that have literally sucked the Earth dry. (See more about Bay Area Subsidence.) Meanwhile, increased demands from Southern California are satisfied in a way that doesn’t wreck the environment and is more efficient. Here’s a good panel discussion about the costs of the project, but it’s likely not to impact ratepayers as the project would be paid for by revenue bonds.

Government “Fees” – As of late, the California legislature has passed three controversial water bills (waiting Governor’s signature) that are new taxes for Californians: a climate bill tax, a drinking water tax, and a storm drain tax. These new “fees” supposedly help mitigate climate change, urban runoff, and drinkable water sources. However, from the way the bills read, it’s unclear how the State is allocating the funds, and more importantly, how it will be governed (likely by an unelected State Board in Sacramento). At least when your local Board messes up, you have the ability to vote someone out or recall them. This money, comes out of your pocket, and gets collected by local water district agencies on behalf of Sacramento.

The last point is significant. If the legislature can make broad, sweeping fee assessments at the State level, both the wholesale and retail water districts are in for trouble: 1) Consumers will blame local and wholesale for their significantly increased fees, while never seeing any improvements to local infrastructure or water way improvement, and 2) a State Water Board with authority to control water resources may be completely out of step with what’s happening/needed at the local level. So fees collected wouldn’t necessarily benefit the payers of a given district.

HashtagPinpoint is passionate about Water. And we will continue to stay on top of this important issue.

Kevin Perkins

#P Social Listening – “CA Water Rates”

The latest listener on recent CA water legislation… 515 Tweets over 9 Days. There was a 4-1 unfavorable reaction.

Interact with it here: http://bit.ly/2whGbIK

Word Cloud – Page 1

Sentiment Pie – Page 2

Kevin Perkins

Water Tax Enthusiasm & Control

State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, pumps his fist in celebration after his storm water bill was approved by the Assembly, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. If signed by the governor, Hertzberg’s SB231 would let local governments charge residents for storm water management systems without voter approval.

Sen. Steyer calling for SB 623, because California is have “a safe drinking water crisis”

A bill passed in the CA Assembly Thursday, August 31, 2017 would in effect tax rain.

Yup, that’s right. Rain.

The lawmakers in Sacramento have decided that local governments would be allowed to TAX (not “charge” as it claims) residents without even getting their approval for such a measure. The bill claims the exception for “sewer, rain, and refuse”, which would circumvent a 1996 law requiring Californians to approve new taxes. It’s not clear what the fiscal impact will be. My guess is it will vary from community to community.

But there’s a larger water tax & control play happening in Sacramento.

The latest Senate Bill (623) “will impose, until July 1, 2020, a safe and affordable drinking water fee in specified amounts on each customer of a public water system, to be administered by the state board, in consultation with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, in accordance with the Fee Collection Procedures Law.” What’s happening is you will have to pay into a fund for all water use: drinking water (bottled, tap), irrigation, farming, etc. This, in essence, removes local controls from the water districts and centralizes it all into a tightly controlled Board of unelected officials who will set the fees (“taxes”) and set the rules on consumption.

Kevin Perkins