Sunday, August 19 , 2018, 7:39 am | Fog/Mist 68º


Local News

Goleta Water District Proposes Plan to Increase Rates, Implement Drought Surcharge Fee

The Goleta Water District plans to raise its water rates and adopt a drought surcharge for all of its customers so the agency can pay for increased costs and compensate for dropping sales.

The Board of Directors unanimously supported a plan that increases water rates and levies a drought surcharge model that charges the same dollar amount, per unit of water, to all customers.

It’s the same surcharge model adopted by the Montecito Water District, with the same fee per unit applied to the highest and lowest water users. Goleta’s model would increase with each drought stage. Stage 3, which the district plans to declare in May, would bring with it a $2.60-per-HCF (hundred cubic feet) surcharge.

Goleta’s highest users will see the biggest impact to their bills with the changes, which are meant to encourage more conservation. The plan proposes implementing these new rates, surcharges and fees on July 1 and then raising those amounts by 3 percent for the 2016-17 year and by 4 percent every year after.

The drought surcharge would be eliminated after the drought is over, general manager John McInnes said.

The district’s proposed plan also funds three capital projects aimed to increase conservation: replacing small meters that may “under-register” water use; distributing 50-gallon rain barrels to catch and store rainwater; and installing storage tanks to make better use of groundwater well water, according to the district.

The tiered monthly base water rates for customers who use less water are actually expected to drop initially, with the proposed model. Customer classes with low per-unit rates, such as agriculture and recreation irrigation, will see big increases from the new rates and fees.

A flat surcharge to all customers would send the message that agricultural customers need to cut their usage to make supplies last longer, board president Lauren Hanson said. While customers have cut back by more than 20 percent overall, agricultural customers have actually increased use by 25 percent over the last year.

The district will send out notices of the proposed changes and hold a Proposition 218 hearing in June to make a final decision.

About 20 residents showed up to Wednesday’s board meeting, which was moved to the Goleta Union School District headquarters to accommodate more people.

Catherine Epperson said her family’s 300-acre avocado farm has been conserving water through mulching the trees and stumping some of the land — cutting trees down to stumps to temporarily take them out of production.

“Of the 300 acres we farm and own, we have stumped over 100 of them,” she told the board.

Their water costs totaled $218,000 last year and with the proposed increases, that number could more than double to $569,000 next year and potentially put them out of business, she said.

A representative from the Isla Vista Recreation & Park District said the park land has already cut water use by 25 percent but the changes would boost its water bill by 106 percent, which is unaffordable.

It would be “excellent” if the district could bring reclaimed water to Isla Vista, she said.

Several residents asked about ongoing development projects, which are adding hundreds of housing units and more water demand.

The district stopped handing out water entitlements to new developments in September, but there were plenty of projects already on their way to building, district staff said.

The backlog of projects approved before the moratorium is “an unfortunate series of events,” Director Meg West said, adding that the board and City Council will work closer together on this issue in the future.

Someone working at a development project on Patterson Avenue was using a fire hose to keep dust down and “probably used in five minutes more than I’ll use all month,” one Goleta resident said.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >