The City Manager’s weekly report (link) this week came out with a lot of data for those concerned about water rates and the water plant. This is a good step in the effort to give rate payers information about what would be the costs associated with going to completely imported water.
Rate Comparisons - True rate comparisons with other cities have been mired by the differences in the way San Juan Capistrano bills and how other cities assess some water and sewer costs to property tax bills. This is still a concern going forward and I expect will be a source of confusion.
Much work is still left to be done, like a new rate study, but I am encouraged by all these developments, and I think this is good progress from the conversations and questioning by many concerned residents, heard by the City Council, Commissions and City Staff.
Plant Ownership - The city is also working on correcting the 2010 Urban Water Management Plan wording which reasserts our water rights to 5800 AFY and extending our lease for the next 102 years, to match our 2002 lease agreement with the San Juan Basin Authority.
Going Forward - We don’t know what problems or successes the plant will go through, and I do think that there still is an argument to be made to partner with local cities to tackle the costs and benefits of local water production. But these latest figures help to make a better business case for us all to support this plant.
We must keep a level head moving forward. For example, the city’s GWRP yearly goal of 4545AF is too ambitious. To reach this goal now, the GWRP would need to produce about 420AF a month for the next 8 months! This goal should be retargeted to an attainable volume. The plant has never produced more than 378AF in a month (October 2011).
Recently the Council has approved $5 million in grants to expand the plant and further develop other important water projects around town. My belief is that this will have a beneficial impact on rates, but it is unknown, and I would have liked this to have been examined. My hope is that whoever is elected will keep the ratepayers forefront in their minds, looking at how changes to the plant may affect us in the future.