2017-01-19 / Editorials

CalAm’s proposed rate increase is indefensible

Acorn Editorial Board

Throughout California’s multi-year drought—which may finally be coming to a end if the recent rains are any indication—the Acorn has been an unwavering voice in support of conservation.

We’ve joined the chorus of state and local agencies calling on residents to do everything within their power to reduce their reliance on the precious resource, everything from the practical (taking shorter showers, doing fewer loads of laundry) to the unsightly (replacing grassy areas with dirt and mulch) to the downright laborious (installing greywater systems).

We’ve also preached patience and understanding when it came to drought-related restrictions and rate hikes, reminding readers of the laws of supply and demand, and of the precarious position in which Southern California purveyors sit—at the mercy of the Sacramento Delta and State Water Project.

But we can no longer defend the actions of California American Water, which has proposed a rate hike that would see some local monthly bills increase by 30 percent by 2020. And that’s before factoring in any increases from wholesalers like Calleguas, which are predicted to hike their prices in the very near future, a hit local providers like CalAm will have no choice but to pass on to consumers.

Even the City of Thousand Oaks, which sells water to residents living in central T.O., is refusing to stay tight-lipped about CalAm’s plans (see related story here).

Public Works Director Jay Spurgin joined more than 100 residents at a hearing Tuesday hosted by the Public Utilities Commission in Newbury Park. While there, he told a PUC administrative law judge that if CalAm’s requests were granted, the company’s clientele would be paying measurably more for the same water than consumers of the city’s other two purveyors (City of T.O., California Water).

CalAm reps say the cost hikes are necessary to maintain infrastructure and quality of service. They also say that by consolidating rates in their Ventura, Los Angeles and San Diego county districts, consumers will benefit because capital costs will be shared over a wider area.

But according to their own numbers, what the consolidation really means is that Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park and Camarillo residents will be asked to pay more toward the cost of improvements that benefit homeowners in L.A. and other far-off lands. Without the consolidation, the proposed rate increases are almost cut in half.

There’s no debating it: Most California residents, including those here in T.O., have bent over backwards to reduce their water use. They deserve better than this.

We join the customers of CalAm in demanding that the PUC deny or, at the very least, greatly modify this request to bring it more in line with the city’s two other water purveyors.

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