Olivenhain Dam
The Olivenhain Dam (left) and Lake Hodges in North San Diego County. Courtesy San Diego County Water Authority

The San Diego County Water Authority Thursday proposed increasing rates for its 24 member agencies by 5.2% for treated water and 3.7% for untreated water in 2023.

The agency cited inflation and increasing energy costs along with rising expenses from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“We recognize inflationary pressures are challenging for many residents and we are working collaboratively with all levels of government to identify, advocate for, and improve water affordability,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “As our rate-setting process moves forward, we will remain focused on maintaining the lowest possible rates while delivering a safe and reliable water supply during the driest period in more than 1,200 years.”

The rate increases include withdrawals from the authority’s Rate Stabilization Fund – created in 1990 to help avoid rate spikes, especially those driven by reduced water sales.

According to the water authority, it intends to reduce 2023 rate increases by $39 per acre-foot by drawing $14 million from that fund.

The rates for 2023 represent $1,579 per acre-foot for untreated water, or $56 more per acre-foot than this year’s bill. Charges would be $1,929 per acre-foot for treated water, or $96 more per acre-foot than in 2022.

An acre-foot is about 325,900 gallons, enough to serve the annual needs of 2.5 typical four-person households in the county, the authority estimates.

However, actual figures will vary by member agency, and each incorporates costs into the retail rates it charges.

Rising costs for water supplies, including increases to water treatment driven by energy costs and a 7% increase from the MWD in Los Angeles for untreated supplies, are behind the proposal, according to the agency.

The Water Authority Board is expected to vote on rates for next year at its regular meeting on June 23, following a public hearing.

– City News Service