Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

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By an edhat reader

I find it curious that water rates are still where they were when we were in a severe drought. I called City Utilities about this and was told that we only did not have an additional rate increase in 2020 because of Covid19.
They also said that groundwater has not come back to where they want it and that they have to buy state water? Haven't they always bought state water?

Why can they not reduce rates with the proviso that they may be raised again if we go into a severe drought again?

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LoveMySB Aug 26, 2020 08:40 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

My theory is that they told us for months & months "Conserve, Conserve, Conserve" and since we did such a good job at conserving water the city was actually loosing money so in turn now that we have water (for now) they need to charge higher rates to recoup the money the city lost. We're screwed no matter what we do.

Think Aug 25, 2020 12:06 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

Our water bills are high because of the drought. The City pays full cost for State Water even though they don"t receive their allotment due to drought. Desal is expensive but necessary due to drought. Recycled water is a small percent of the City's water portfolio because the State has not passed direct potable reuse.

RHS Aug 25, 2020 05:36 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

Think--your "facts" all wet. CA is not in a drought. SWP supplies are good. We are not paying a premium for that water and it is a lot cheaper than desalinated stuff. Potable reuseable water has nothing to do with the use of desalinated water. Other places in CA are using recycled water by injecting into the basin and then pumping it out when safe but we are doing nothing like that. Ad nauseum.

SDP Aug 25, 2020 11:20 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

WoW! That bill seems very high OP. I have a family of 3, and my water bill (water only - not trash) Jan-may was $44 (Tier 1). I have all garden on drip irrigation and high efficiency washer. In June-Oct it can double that to about $90 (Tier 1 & 2), but that's nowhere near $230! It sounds like you should check your irrigation system and check the controls too.

fewtile Aug 25, 2020 09:18 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

Its a boondoggle. I understand we're renting the water-meter; why can't we just buy it outright? Sewer service charge? Gravity is free! Of my $142/ mo. water bill, about $30 is for the actual wet stuff.

delconin Aug 25, 2020 08:52 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

I own one 7 unit rental property and do appreciate the comments regarding how to conserve water.
My monthly bill averages over $500 (including small amount for landscaping)
I have another 4 unit property where there is almost no landscaping with bill averaging over $420/mth.
These figures are double what they were before the increases. I understand the cost for the meter, etc.
The City needs to be held accountable for where the increased revenue is going and how they are running the Utility business. I note that the current focus of City Council members is on how to help tenants be protected regarding tenant rights. This is fine BUT what about protecting all the tenants (who end up with higher rent due to higher expenses having to be met by landlords) AND protecting all the homeowners who still face very high water bills even when being environmentally conscious?

yacht rocked Aug 25, 2020 06:51 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

Water is life. Without water, your property (or your landlord's) is almost worthless. If you want to read a telling sci-fi about a water scarce future in the Southwest, read "The Water Knife" by Paolo Bacigalupi. You won't look at your tap the same way again after that read.

SBREADER Aug 25, 2020 06:44 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

In all of those 27 Comments only 2 references to Desal. It is disappointing that so few people know the facts of one of your most important Government functions, how do we get water service. I know the City tries to do effective Public education but people have to have some initiative to participate. Water rates in SB will never go down for the rest of our lives. Water rates in Southern California never go down. It isn't a business but it about as close to a business as you can get. 90% of the Budget are fixed costs that must be paid by contract, and never go down. Neither the Administration nor the Council can do anything about that. Yes we have high employee costs but if you want to best and brightest that is what you pay. I believe it is worth it. Joshua Haggmark, Water Resources Manager and Rebecca Bjork, Public Works Director, are as good as they get. Those are highly sought after jobs. Hundreds of highly qualified people applied for both. Joshua and Rebecca got them. After saying all that it is Desal. Desal Desal. The total cost of the Desal Facilities is approaching $100 mil. That all has to be paid through the financing that was used and that is funded by your water rates. It is by far the most expensive water we have and there is no going back now. The 2 Comments that did reference Desal both have several "facts" wrong. Montecito will pay to SB all costs of providing service. That Agreement was the product of literally years of negotiations and the City prevailed. Montectio has to pay their contracted amount whether they take the water or not. "Just the facts, Ma'am!"

SBREADER Aug 25, 2020 02:36 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

Just the facts Ma'am. Recycled water costs almost as much to produce and deliver as Desal. Some of us know these facts, I worked in local Water for 30 years. After treating recycled water which is very expensive, we have to pump every drop to the use site. That is very expensive to do as the Recycled facility is at beach level so everything has to be pumped. We are fortunate that most of our water that comes from Cachuma and SWP can be delivered by gravity. If you know all the facts, SB is not in a position to rely on Recycled water anymore than it does now. All the current capacity is being used.

SBREADER Aug 25, 2020 11:43 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

You really should inform yourself of the facts before you post wrong information on Edhat and half these people will believe you. There is a long record of the Desal negotiations and it is clear what Montecito is paying for. Of course that would take some real research.

Curmudgeon Aug 25, 2020 11:20 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

While not precisely what you ask for, helpful never-the-less is this Independent article from 2017: https://www.independent.com/2017/06/01/desal-goes-online-sort-of/

a-1598371431 Aug 25, 2020 09:03 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

Reminder: voters themselves approved both the desal plant and state water in a now notorious post-drought election when Cachuma was at one of its lowest points, and ironically right before a "March Miracle" storm that brought it almost back to full capaccity. Can't blame the city for either of these issues - city voters pushed by competing special interest groups demanded the city do both: desal and state water.

RHS Aug 25, 2020 08:59 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

SBReader seems to be a PR person for the bosses at SBPWD. What is not mentioned in this discussion is that the powers that be in the dept and city govt pushed past and lied about the more efficient and cheaper process of recycling water as opposed to the energy costly and environmentally polluting desalination option. They were either blind to the difference or willfully coopted by the contractors pushing the desalination business. We could have lower rates for water service if we didn't have the monstrous costs associated with the second desalination boondoggle. These costs will be with us for decades even when we eventually decide to cut and run to more reasonable water supply options.

a-1598370930 Aug 25, 2020 08:55 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

When "hundreds of highly qualified people" apply for our city jobs, I don't worry about losing any of our current, highly paid employees. I reject the idea somehow they can extort any compensation package they want. Good enough at fair compensation rates is good enough, when this city is already over-budgeted and has a city council that willingly stuck a knife in the back of the local economy. The numbers of $300-400K a year city employees shocks the conscience, particularly when they oversee and even foster so much mismanagement of this city and its limited resources. We now have too many on city staff who push unlimited growth, just to fund their own compensation packages and back fill their own pension accounts - that sort of city employee is worth nothing to me. Far better to get city staff who respond to the residents, and not their own pocketbooks.

PitMix Aug 25, 2020 07:48 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

Montecito is not paying the cost of the 72M plant retrofit, only the ongoing costs to produce water for them and the cost of the water pipeline.

PitMix Aug 25, 2020 07:47 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

I don't know Joshua but Bjork was responsible for the 17M cost overrun on the desal plant and was rewarded with the promotion to Public Works Director. I find it very curious that they do nationwide searches but almost always end up hiring an existing employee that is friends with the interviewers. But probably has a lot to do with being able to get top managers to come to SB given the high cost of houses here.

a-1598365294 Aug 25, 2020 07:21 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

SBReader, we need a well-researched article covering what you’ve mentioned. Maybe The Independent or Noozhawk will do one, or ??? (Not that I doubt you, but I don’t rely solely on Edhat comments.) Residents should learn and understand the costs associated with our commitment to Desal.

hz Aug 24, 2020 08:12 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

my water bill is 59.30 each month..I am charged $4.44 FOR ctual water...the standard minimum each month..the rest is 28.92 service charge for the meter 2.00 tax on that, plus 23.94 sewer charge...so it is not the water that is so expensive!

PitMix Aug 25, 2020 07:50 AM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

The sewer charge is a boondoggle. They charge you a fixed rate even when you are using the water for outside watering during the summer. Really your sewer charge should be based on your January usage but for some reason they want to subsidize people with large families.

FondofSB Aug 24, 2020 06:09 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

The real rip-off is their"monthly" Units count billing.
Here is why .
If you use more than 4 units per month, the fifth and additional units are billed at a higher rate (to discourage "high" consumption)
However if you consume 3 units one month and 5 the next one you still pay MORE for the fifth unit of the second month even though you have consumed only 4 units (on average) for those 2 months.
So the 4 unit pricing scheme should apply to the consumption of the whole year, and NOT on a month by month basis which allows them to OVER CHARGE you if you consume 5 units one month but only 3 in other months.
This is ripping people off !

m-cubed Aug 24, 2020 04:29 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

Utility rates go up not down! It's Newton's fourth law of motion. I believe Santa Barbara depends on that water money for budgetary purposes they ain't letting it go. Ever.

a-1598329881 Aug 24, 2020 09:31 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

City pension contributions were based on a 7% investment return. If they fail to meet that, and they have not for years, the city taxpayers have to kick in the rest to make up the difference - higher "fees" and fewer services But like universities and schools, the union bargained pension promises must be paid first. The chronic pension over-promising and under-funding drives everything. California Supreme Court just ruled these pensions cannot be modified, unless the city declares bankruptcy. For the next decades, it will be the long squeeze of higher rates and taxes but fewer services. Do you remember ever voting for this? You did, but the reality was glossed over and you in fact were deceived by hidden agendas and duplicitous language. Ironically, the city is better on higher and higher real estate prices to bail them out.

mp805 Aug 24, 2020 04:42 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

M-CUBED, so true...its a total numbers game. check out the study don't in 2019 salaries and benefits are mentioned starting on page 7.....https://www.santabarbaraca.gov/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=219666

radiobarn Aug 24, 2020 03:30 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

And then there's the case of Ohio water districts - many actually lower the rates the more you use. I know because we moved here from there earlier this year. But then again you have to live there. Family of 4, fully watered lawn will run you about $80 a month.

a-1598394723 Aug 25, 2020 03:32 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

The punishing pension promises that have long been underfunded were made well before Paul Casey's time as city CEO. Each city employee raise makes the unfunded balance grow even larger. The crux is giving city employees defined-benefit pension plans, instead of the more typical defined contribution pension plans. That is the pension reform that will turn this around, but it is also the pension reform public employees and the courts (also public employees) have resisted and/or sabotaged for over 20 years. The problems with these defined-benefit plans were obvious from the very beginning, but solutions or fiscal accountability kept getting kicked down the road. I doubt anyone on city council today can even explain this to you. All Paul Casey can do now is find ways to stop the flow red ink that was foisted on him too. Post-covid economic meltdown of course only makes what was already very bad, even worse. Much worse. Plus a certain now well known former Calif AG made sure two voter-qualified public pension reform ballot initiatives would be doomed to fail, simply by the way she wrote up the ballot language.

RHS Aug 24, 2020 06:46 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

No, let the elected officials explain. The idea that Casey should be allowed to act as foil and such is the basic problem of city government. Elected people hide behind that position and get to avoid accountability.

PitMix Aug 24, 2020 01:23 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

1:17, if you wash dishes by hand and let the water run the whole time, I guess you can use more than a dishwasher. Personally I use way less than a dishwasher when doing the dishes because the only time the water is running (at less than full pressure) is when I'm rinsing.

Minibeast Aug 24, 2020 06:54 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

PITMIX: You and I are in agreement on this. My family and I can beat any automatic dishwasher's water use any day of the week. 1) You don't run the water unless you're wetting the sponge or rinsing the dishes. 2) You wet the sponge and soap it up. 3) You rub spongy soap suds all over the dishes, adding more soap as needed. 4) When you rinse the dishes you can splash water from one dish to the other. 5) The final rinse, where you're pretty sure you got 99% of the soap, is done over a bucket.------- The bucket water is then used out in the garden. Optional and advised: Soak dishes in the water pan/bucket before you wash. *Plants don't mind bits of food in their "dish" water.* Got oily water from, say, fry pan (not too oily) or oily water from salad bowls, buttery foods, etc? Do a warm/hot water pre-rinse of those dishes into your compost/kitchen scraps bucket.--------Use organic/non-toxic/non synthetic excipients dishsoap and you're even more enviro friendly.

Ahchooo Aug 24, 2020 05:47 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

If your dishwasher is full when you run it, and it’s not ancient, it will use less than if you washed all those dishes by hand. But if you run it half full, maybe not.

monkeyboy Aug 24, 2020 01:21 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

It's government. Taxes never go down, rate increases never expire, salaries always go up even in a global economic shutdown. People complain about Cox, but I don't need cable to live and my water bill for a family of 4 with a dead lawn and dying yard is almost 4x my Cox bill.

PitMix Aug 24, 2020 01:20 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

We have to pay for the $55M desal plant retrofit and the $17M cost overrun, Montecito is not going to pay for that. And each year salaries and benefits and operating costs go up and we have to pay for that as well. Let's face it, no municipality ever decreased their rates without being forced. No bureaucracy ever thought that they were being given too much money.

RHS Aug 24, 2020 01:13 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

The SBPWD propaganda is relentless. Yes they are buying SWP. They have a long term contract to buy SWP water and this is not an act of emergency. The ground basin is being charged but could be much more filled if we sent recycled and sanitarily treated water from our sewage system into it as do other more sophisticated and efficient districts. We could also put SWP water in this location while it is available at low cost. We are selling desalinated water to Montecito that is much more expensive to produce than SWP water costs, so that is bizarre. We paid for connections to bring water to Montecito at SB ratepayer expense. That was a ridiculous sell out and gift to Montecito users. We have agreed to operate the desalination plant for 50 years despite it producing the most expensive water in the state and nation. This is a boon to the contractor and to Montecito who can take or leave what is being produced. It just goes on and on. There is the smell of scandal in this department but it may just be goofy incompetence.

Curmudgeon Aug 24, 2020 12:57 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

Probably in part because we conserved to such a great extent during the drought and have not fully returned to our profligate ways regarding usage, thus producing reduced revenue and resulting in the need to keep rates high. Not to mention the less talked about pension liability the city is obligated to meet (like the county and many jurisdictions statewide - a ticking time bomb.)

Cadillackid Aug 24, 2020 12:57 PM
Why are Santa Barbara Water Rates Still High?

Yes I’ve wondered if this is normal rates, I live with my wife and 2 kids and our water bill averages $230 a month, and we are hardly home, we have no leaks, but we do have a washing machine, and we do not use our dishwasher, does that sound normal?

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