For Immediate Release: 4/19/2016
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta, 209-479-2053, [email protected]
UPDATE 4/22: Controversy erupts over Santa Clara Water District’s groundwater charges
NOTE 4/20: Corrections made to table below
Rates to increase without a public vote
San Jose, CA – Attendees at a recent public meeting in Gilroy were surprised to learn that a new fee will be soon be added to their groundwater bills to support the Cal WaterFix, also known as the Delta Tunnels.
Several users of small private residential water systems complained bitterly about the cost of the current groundwater charges on top of the cost of pumping and maintenance of their wells. They were unanimous in stating that they could not afford the proposed increase for FY 2017. The groundwater charges are also paid by the cities and passed on to customers.
“Well owners and residential customers will now be paying to support the Delta Tunnels through their water bills. No wonder people are upset,” explained Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. “This rate increase will happen, without a vote, for a project without permits, for water they will never receive.”
Deirdre Des Jardins of California Water Research discovered the WaterFix charges when evaluating District documents. She found a significant discrepancy in the proposed WaterFix charges disclosed for Prop 218, and those presented to the Board and the County Water Commission. For the Board, the staff estimated the WaterFix could result in a maximum $229 per acre foot annual increase in water rates for the South County, vs. $38 estimated in the FY 2017 disclosure. For the North County, the staff estimated a maximum $316 annual increase, vs $75 in the FY 2017 disclosure.
Des Jardins noted that the WaterFix charges are in addition to increases in groundwater fees to pay for major local projects. If the District’s CVP share of WaterFix costs are paid by groundwater fees, the District’s South County groundwater fees would almost triple between 2015 and 2026. North County groundwater fees would almost quadruple.
|2026 Groundwater fees Rate setting disclosure||2026 Groundwater fees w/higher WaterFix costs|
|South County||$319 / af||$356 / af||$604 / af||$795 / af|
|North County||$747 / af||$894 / af||$2332 / af||$2648 / af|
The financial slight-of-hand raises some serious questions, according to Barrigan-Parrilla. “This enormously expensive project was slipped into the District budget with little notice or review, and with ridiculously rosy cost estimates. Sooner or later ratepayers will get stuck with the bill.”
On April 26, at 6:00 pm, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board will discuss the groundwater charges. If ratepayers cannot attend the meeting, Barrigan-Parrilla recommends emailing objections to the SCVWD at [email protected].