City of Thousand Oaks passing on water savings to customers

Rate increase will be less than expected

Even while reducing their water use, Californians have faced a string of rate increases. That upward trend will continue for customers who get their water from the City of Thousand Oaks—but not by as much as originally thought.

The City Council voted 4-0 at its Oct. 23 meeting to reduce a previously approved rate increase for 2019 from 4 percent to 2.6 percent. While the increase will add $3 to the bill of the average City of T.O. user next year, that is about $1.50 less than it would have been before the reduction, resulting in a yearly savings of $18.

Councilmember Claudia Bill-de la Peña, caught in traffic caused by a plane crash on the 101 Freeway that day, arrived late to the meeting and was not present for the vote.

After realizing it had overestimated the cost of imported water, the council acted to make rates reflect the lower numbers.

“We had assumed for 2019 that imported water rates would go up by 4.8 percent,” Public Works Director Jay Spurgin said. “They actually went up only 2.2 percent.”

One of three purveyors operating within city boundaries, the City of T.O. buys all its water from the Calleguas Municipal Water District, a regional wholesaler that gets nearly all of its supply from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Mayor Andy Fox called the city’s decision to reduce a previously agreed-upon rate increase a “rarity.”

“I would remind the community this is not a trend you’re going to see all the time,” he said. “There are a number of factors that went into this.”

The council approved 4-percent rate increases on its 17,000 residential water customers, mostly in the center third of the city, in October 2017 based on information from Calleguas and MWD, Spurgin said.

Explaining why imported water is less expensive than previously estimated, Spurgin said a wet winter in the Sierra Nevada meant Metropolitan did not have to buy as much expensive supplemental water as in past years. He also said the State Water Project is receiving more revenue due to the electricity generated by Hoover Dam.

Developers won’t share in the reductions. When it comes to water and wastewater connection fees, the city is upping costs. The annual adjustments are connected to inflation, the city said.

The single-family water connection fee will go up by 2.6 percent, from $8,373 to $8,591, which makes Thousand Oaks the second-most-expensive provider in the area.

Las Virgenes Municipal Water District is at the top with a $13,566 water connection fee, and County Waterworks District 1, Moorpark’s water provider, is the lowest with a fee of $2,389. Oak Park Water District, California American Water (covering Newbury Park) and California Water Service (covering Westlake) do not charge a fee for new connections.

Likewise, City of Thousand Oaks wastewater connection fees will increase by the same 2.6 percent, bringing the new fee to $8,446 from $8,232, putting the city in the middle of the pack. Triunfo Sanitation District (serving Westlake) is highest with $13,675 and the City of Simi Valley is lowest at $4,374.