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