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CWA to consider rate increases June 23

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The San Diego County Water Authority has set a June 23 hearing for proposed SDCWA rates and charges for calendar year 2023.

A May 26 unanimous vote of the CWA board set the June 23 hearing date along with the proposed rates and charges. If those rates and charges are approved, the June 23 action will also allocate the pro-rata share of fixed charges to each CWA member agency.

The new rates would increase the cost per acre-foot from $1,833 to $1,929 for treated water and from $1,523 to $1,584 for untreated supply, although that is an average charge for all 24 CWA member agencies and due to pro-rata shares the cost may be more or less for specific agencies. The average rates would be increased by 5.2 percent for treated supply and by 3.7 percent for untreated purchases. The CWA member agencies have the option of absorbing the rate increase or passing on the additional cost to customers.

The rates are based on a melded rate which melds the cost of water delivered from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, water purchased from the Imperial Irrigation District under the Quantification Settlement Agreement, and water produced by the Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

The CWA also has transportation, storage, and customer service charges along with fees and charges for fixed expenditures which are incurred even when water use is reduced. The CWA also incorporates debt coverage targets into its rate structure with a target debt coverage ratio, or ratio of cash available to debt obligation, of 1.5:1 for senior lien debt (debt secured by collateral in the event of a default) and 1.4:1 for overall debt.

MWD increased the cost of treated water by 7.0 percent and untreated water by 5.8 percent. The price of IID water is now tied to an inflation index and will increase by 4 percent. Electricity accounts for approximately 38 percent of desalinated water costs, so the 21 percent San Diego Gas & Electric rate increase is significantly responsible for an 11 percent increase in the cost of desalinated water.

The CWA untreated water rate per acre-foot for municipal and industrial customers will increase from $1,009 to $1,085. The M&I untreated rate was $909 in 2019, $925 during 2020, and $940 for 2021.

The melded CWA rate for treatment is based on the cost to purchase treated water from MWD, the cost of desalinated water from the Carlsbad plant, and the cost to treat water at the Twin Oaks, Olivenhain and Levy treatment plants (the Levy plant is owned and operated by the Helix Water District, and the CWA purchases treated water from Helix). The treated water surcharge which is currently $310 will increase to $350 for 2023. That surcharge was $276 during 2019, $280 in 2020, and $295 last year.

The per-acre untreated Special Agricultural Water Rate which was $755 in 2020 and $777 for 2021 will be increased from $799 to $855. Treated water for SAWR customers will increase from $1,109 to $1,205 per acre-foot after being $1,035 in 2020 and $1,072 during 2021.

The CWA's transportation rate is a uniform rate set to recover capital, operating, and maintenance costs of the CWA's aqueduct system. The current $173 rate per acre-foot will not change. The rate had been $132 in 2020 and $150 last year.

The Infrastructure Access Charge is used for fixed expenditures incurred even when water use is reduced. The IAC per meter equivalent will remain unchanged at $4.24, which was also the 2021 rate after rising from $3.66 for 2020. A meter under 1 inch has a 1.0 meter equivalent and the rates are multiplied by 1.6 for one-inch meters, by 3.0 for 1.5-inch meters, by 5.2 for two-inch meters, by 9.6 for three-inch meters, and by larger factors for meters larger than 3 inches.

The Customer Service Charge is intended to recover costs which support the operations of the CWA and is allocated among member agencies based on a three-year rolling average of all deliveries. The charge has been $25,600,000 since 2019 but will increase to $26,000,000 next year.

The Storage Charge recovers costs related to emergency service programs and is allocated to member agencies based on a pro-rata share of non-agricultural deliveries. The total charge was $65,000,000 from 2017 to 2020, and the 2021 and 2022 amount of $60,000,000 will not change for 2023.

In March 2015, the CWA approved a revised rate structure intended to avoid a situation where conservation resulting in a decrease in water usage leads to the need to increase rates. The CWA added a Supply Reliability Charge while allocating all non-commodity revenues to all rate and charge categories including treatment and applying the debt and equity payments for the Carlsbad desalination plant to the supply rate. The Supply Reliability Charge is a fixed charge to recover a portion of the QSA and desalination plant costs and is set equal to the difference between the supply cost of desalination and the Imperial County purchases (including MWD's wheeling charge) and a like amount of water purchased at MWD's Tier 1 rate multiplied by 25 percent. The charge is allocated to CWA member agencies on a pro-rata basis using a five-year rolling average of M&I deliveries. The charge which had been $37,430,000 in 2020 and $38,840,000 last year is now $39,340,000 and will increase to $40,850,000 in 2023.

The CWA also has a Standby Availability Charge of $10 per acre or $10 per parcel under 1 acre. That amount will not change.

MWD's Readiness to Serve Charge, which is set on a fiscal year basis and becomes effective July 1, involves credits for the standby charge and administrative costs. The CWA's share is allocated to member agencies based on a ten-year rolling average of demands. The CWA's charge after standby and administrative credits was reduced from $12,909,485 during 2019-20 to $11,739,042 for 2020-21 and $10,553,506 in 2021-22 but will increase slightly to $10,556,052 for 2022-23.

MWD has a Capacity Charge which is allocated to CWA member agencies proportionately based on a five-year rolling average of flows during peak periods. The total charge to the CWA rose from $8,019,440 in 2020 to $9,153,850 for 2021 to $10,437,100 during 2022 but will be dropped to $7,668,040 in 2023.

The CWA also has a System Capacity Charge which is a one-time charge for new system connections and recovers the proportionate cost of the existing and planned system serving the new customers. The System Capacity Charge per meter equivalent increased from $5,301 in 2020 to $5,312 for 2021 new connections and $5,328 for 2022 will be $5,700 next year. A Water Treatment Capacity Charge which recovers a portion of the regional water treatment facility expenses but exempts City of Del Mar, City of Escondido, and City of Poway customers who cannot benefit from that service will increase from $149 to $159 per meter equivalent after being $147 in 2020 and $148 last year.

The CWA Annexation Fee which was $10,729 during 2020 and $10,771 in 2021 is currently $10,801 and will increase to $11,156 next year. The annexation fee does not include the CWA member agency and MWD annexation fees, nor does it include the Local Agency Formation Commission processing fee for the annexation.


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