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Water rates likely to rise

Despite continuing conservation efforts, San Diegans should prepare for another increase in water rates in the coming year, the City Council was told on Tuesday.

Facing a growing need to repair or replace aging pipelines, coupled with a rising price tag on the water it imports through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the local water system has little choice but to raise rates, said Roger Bailey, director of the public utilities department.

Bailey said the department was able to avoid a rate hike last year through dipping into its reserves and introducing some efficiency measures. But he said the department will not be able to find similar savings this year.

“Water isn’t cheap,” he said. “It’s very expensive. ... And we’re at the mercy of modern nature.”

Councilmember Lori Zapf asked why costs would be rising while people are continuing to cut back on their use.

“People are conserving, conserving, conserving,” she said. “Everyone’s looking for plants that don’t take a lot of water, or taking out their lawns, or finding any way to use less water.”

But Bailey said much of the price of water is tied to the fixed cost of maintaining the system, which is a constant concern no matter how much people conserve.

“Maybe we should be doing more to manage expectations, so that instead of having people thinking that they’ll be saving money through conservation, they should be told that what they’re getting is ... water,” Zapf said.

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