Refining Montecito Water Rates for Desal: A Balancing Act

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Refining Montecito Water Rates for Desal: A Balancing Act
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By Melinda Burns

Which Montecito water customers should bear the greatest share of the $4.3 million yearly cost of purchasing Santa Barbara water for the next 50 years?

A draft overview of potential water rate increases, presented by the Montecito Water District board at a sparsely attended public workshop on Monday, included scenarios that would raise the monthly service charge for a ¾-inch water meter, standard for many single-family homes, from $45 now to up to $128 by 2024. Higher fixed charges would provide more fiscal stability for the district, the presentation showed, but small users would be hit with larger bills.

The Montecito water board wants to buy enough water from Santa Barbara to meet about a third of the community’s annual demand. The city would produce the extra supply at its $72 million desalination plant, but the water shipped to Montecito would come from other city sources as well. The Montecito water board is scheduled to adopt rate hikes to pay for Santa Barbara water next April; they would go into effect on May 1.

Under one scenario unveiled by the board this week, residential water bills, currently $142 per month, on average, would more than double to $291 by 2024, while commercial and institutional bills – for large users such as the cemetery, golf courses and hotels – would increase by 47 percent during the same period, from $851 per month now, on average, to $1,251.

With a city supply on hand, district officials said, Montecito could reduce its dependence on state aqueduct water, saving up to $1 million per year. The new rates would include increases to cover inflation, officials said, but would not cover the future costs of drawing up a groundwater sustainability plan, repairing district storage tanks, or building a wastewater recycling plant.

On Tuesday, at its regular monthly meeting, the board for the first time announced its intent, in collaboration with the Montecito Sanitary District, to supply non-potable recycled water for irrigation to the Santa Barbara Cemetery and other large customers. Estimates for that project range from $5 million to $16 million.


Melinda Burns is a freelance journalist in Santa Barbara.

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RHS Nov 22, 2019 09:44 AM
Refining Montecito Water Rates for Desal: A Balancing Act

I do not understand from Ms Burns' article if the reduction in state water costs noted is a net reduction in the total cost of the water purchased. Isn't desalinated water more expense by double than state water?

yacht rocked Nov 22, 2019 07:24 AM
Refining Montecito Water Rates for Desal: A Balancing Act

Birnam Wood oligarchs run a gated community. Now that water security is in place, and sewer district takeover is in the pipeline (har), next up, as already mentioned in the Montecito Journal, is a feasibility study to re-engineer the power grid so that in event of an outage, the BW community will continue to have power with a combination of solar panels, batteries, and generators. Hidden behind trees and blackout curtains, and guarded by roving security, life will continue at BW. Party on!

a-1575802152 Nov 21, 2019 07:54 PM
Refining Montecito Water Rates for Desal: A Balancing Act

It would be interesting to compare the water prices between Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Carpinteria. For example, if a house uses 10 HCF per month and, has a 3/4 inch meter, how much would be the total $/month for each of these areas? Is Montecito water really that much more expensive than Santa Barbara water? If the answer is "Yes," then this leads to a whole series of questions such as "Why is Montecito water so expensive?" and "How can the cost of Montecito water be reduced?"

a-1575802152 Nov 22, 2019 03:50 PM
Refining Montecito Water Rates for Desal: A Balancing Act

@RHS I can assure you the GWD is not assuring an affordable price for the least wealthy. I have 2 acres of fruit trees in a high fire area and should have the same allotment as someone on 1/10 of an acre in a suburban neighborhood?A high end subdivision was built near my house and they were granted a “ landscape Meter “ and special HCF rate for their many acres of common area. How is that acceptable? The cost per HCF should be one set price, just as it always was until a year ago. The tiered system does not promote water conservation, people just pay it, and GWD knows and counts on it.

RHS Nov 22, 2019 08:32 AM
Refining Montecito Water Rates for Desal: A Balancing Act

11:15 p.m. Your comments ignore the fact that water is a basic necessity of life and assuring an affordable price for the least wealthy if reasonable. It is also true that an escalating price discourages wanton misuse of the limited resource. So a graduated scale is perfectly just. Maybe it is justice that you object to.

a-1575802152 Nov 21, 2019 11:15 PM
Refining Montecito Water Rates for Desal: A Balancing Act

@7:54 My 1” meter with Goleta Water District is $78.99 per month. Water use charge is now tiered at 1-6 HCF =$5.26, 7-16 HCF =$6.46 , 17+ HCF= $7.12. They finally dropped the drought surcharge. I live in the county and have 2 acres of land. But I have the same tiered allotment as someone in a small Goleta tract house. The tiered system is a scam and it doesn’t encourage water conservation. Everyone should be charged one rate per HCF. Utility companies really have unfair ways to increase costs to consumers. Could you imagine being charged this way for any other commodity ? What if A gas station charged one rate up to 5 gallons then slowly increased the cost per gallon?

Davidb Nov 21, 2019 05:44 PM
Refining Montecito Water Rates for Desal: A Balancing Act

Ridiculous is a better word. As a long time resident, I can remember when my monthly water bills were less than TEN DOLLARS ! Now my water bill is by far the most expensive utility I have to pay. From what I read, mine is on the low side ( I use about 1/3 of my allocation). The actual cost of the water is still semi-reasonable - it is all the other nonsense charges that they tack on. Last but not least is their "Water Emergency Surcharge" Now that the "Water Emergency" is history, that should go away - right?. But oh no -their greed knows no bounds. They are a monopoly - and certainly behave like one. It is time to look for an alternative. Drilling a well is one possibility. I am aware of a couple being drilled nearby as we speak. Since we don't drink or cook with the stuff that comes out of the tap, perhaps that is not a bad idea . Here is another possibility worth considering: https://www.watergen.com/

RHS Nov 22, 2019 09:43 AM
Refining Montecito Water Rates for Desal: A Balancing Act

DavidB: And gasoline was 23.9 cents a gallon. If you want to lower these costs reduce the demand. First, in California you can take on the huge agricultural interests that consume more than 80% of the state water with claims of priority over other uses. Second, you can reduce the population of the state (and the nation as well). After than we will be swimming in H2O.

a-1575802152 Nov 21, 2019 02:18 PM
Refining Montecito Water Rates for Desal: A Balancing Act

This is hilarious! What did Montecito residents think was going to happen by voting in Bob Hazards “ water security slate of candidates” ? This is only the beginning of their water fee woes. Next he will have his slate dismantle the sanitary district. A special district that has been a well oiled financially sound machine for decades. Good luck with your Water Security Team Montecito!

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