By Don Zdeba
As Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg assassin character the Terminator said, “I’m back!” Retirement was short-lived as I have been retained as interim General Manager while the Board of Directors undertake another recruitment process. However, that is not the subject of this column. I want to focus on the recent change to the rate structure that has been adopted by the Board following an extensive cost of service study conducted by Hildebrand Consulting.
For years, the District has used a tier system to base its rates on. Most recently, the rate structure was based on four tiers. The first tier allowed up to 9 hundred cubic feet (HCF) for basic indoor water needs, including evaporative cooling. 1 HCF is equivalent to 748 gallons. The second tier, an additional 15 HCF to support water-efficient outdoor landscape requirements. The third tier provided 21 HCF for additional outdoor needs. The fourth tier is use above 45 HCF and is considered excessive use. As you would expect, the rate charged for usage increases in each tier. As an example, residential customer rates ranged from $0.82 per HCF in tier 1 to $5.54 per HCF in tier 4. Other monthly charges include the Account Charge, Ready-to-Serve charge, Arsenic Compliance Charge, and Zone Charge, if applicable. Billing included two fees adopted by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority; the Groundwater Extraction (Pumping) Fee and the Replenishment Fee. Most recently, those fees were billed at $0.24 and $1.65 per HCF, respectively. In a previous column I went into more depth on all of these charges. Should you desire more information, the article can be found below.
The rate structure adopted as Ordinance 106 by the Board at the public hearing held February 27th reduced the number of tiers from four to two. The basis for the two-tier structure involves the allocation to the Water District of the Navy’s Federal Reserved Right of the entire 7,650 acre-feet of average annual recharge reported in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Indian Wells Valley. The tier 1 allotment provides residential customers with water that is not subject to the Replenishment Fee but is charged the Groundwater Extraction Fee. The rationale is if all residential customers maintained consumption within the tier 1 range there would be no need to import water hence no Replenishment Fee payments would be collected. The reality is that some customers do exceed the tier 1 allotment occasionally and some exceed it regularly. Exceeding that base tier 1 allotment requires the District to acquire an external supply of water to meet demand so those who consume more are responsible for paying for it.
Based on 2022 consumption data, the average District residential customers did not exceed the current tier 1 allotment during any month. The tier 1 allotment is subject to change depending on the Navy’s use of its Federal Reserved Right, again 7,650 acre-feet. As a customer of the District, should you desire to see an estimate of what your bill will be under the adopted two-tier rate structure, you may do so using the Bill Calculator available on the District’s website, www.iwvwd.com. The information that needs to be entered can be found on your bill if you don’t know it. The default entries are ¾” for meter size, the District’s standard residential meter size, and A-Zone, the area where the largest percentage of customers reside. However, you can confirm this information on your bill.
A second Public Hearing was held March 13th to adopt Ordinance 107 which supersedes Ordinance 106. The only change to Ordinance 106 was adopting new rates for Bulk Water Station Charges, Construction Meter Charges, and Private Fire Protection Service Charges. Ordinance 107 is available to review in its entirety on the District’s website.
If you have questions or concerns about your bill, please contact Customer Service at (760)375-5086.