GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

Water prices in San Diego: at least there’s water to pay for

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 5, 2010

Colorado River Aqueduct

We’ve known it was coming and now that January is here, the next water rate increase is taking effect. Every time we get an incremental water rate increase, the news media jumps on the story and before long the comments threads are alive with people complaining about being ripped off for using water or for conserving water. Sigh.

My 3-member family lives in a 2600 sq. ft home on a 14,700 sq. ft. landscaped lot near Lake Murray and we used 12 HCF in the last two-month period (to me it still seems too much but I think it compares well with sparing consumers). The water used fee was $35.72 for those two months. There’s also a base fee for another $35.18 regardless how much water was used, but that’s money for fixed operating expenses. Compare that with our nonessential Cox Cable bill which is $108.67 per month for TV alone. From that perspective, even a doubling of the water used fee would not be a big deal, especially knowing it’s for a necessity of life.

One water-related fee that I expect to show dramatic increases in the future is the sewer fee, which for our home right now stands at $100.21 per billing period. That’s also a fixed fee, charged regardless of amount of water used. It’s very expensive to treat sewage and the price reflects that. Still, San Diego is not yet treating sewage at the Point Loma facility to secondary standards as required by the Clean Water Act, so when the city is finally forced to take that step we will certainly see the sewer fee rise, and not just a little. Further, if our city is going to succeed in further reducing its reliance on imported water, it’s going to have to expand its water recycling program. Water recycling is part of the wastewater treatment system and additional investment in that will also mean higher sewer fees.

Iron Mountain Pump Station

I’m certainly concerned about paying more for water and related infrastructure expense, but I just don’t see widespread administrative fraud or negligence there. My big concern is how precarious our existence here is because we rely so heavily on imported water. There’s a huge water delivery infrastructure bringing us water from northern California and the Colorado River, but it’s very fragile at many points. A major disruption to the delivery system could be devastating. That’s what really scares me, and it’s why I recently wrote this opinion on water reuse last month. When it comes to its water, increased self-sufficiency should be San Diego’s number-one priority.


(Photo of Iron Mountain Pump Station courtesy of Ron Gilbert from Photo of California Aqueduct found widely reprinted online without attribution, possibly originated from the State Department of Water Resources)

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