LB Water Department proposes to raise water rates by 4 percent for five years

Sean Belk
Staff Writer

Long Beach Water Department (LBWD) staff is proposing a 4-percent increase in water rates for the next five fiscal years, starting with 2013-14, which begins Oct. 1.
Water department staff brought forward the five-year spending plan during the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners meeting last Thursday, May 16.
The suggested water-rate increase is being proposed primarily because of rising labor costs and rate hikes associated with pumping and purchasing potable water.
LBWD staff is not suggesting an increase in sewer rates.
According to a presentation, the department’s water fund accounts for 85 percent of the department’s total $119.7-million budget for fiscal year 2013-14. The department’s capital-improvement program budget makes up about $16.4 million.
The largest components of the budget that account for about 37 percent, or $38 million, are costs to purchase and pump water.
More than half of the water supply in Long Beach is produced from groundwater wells, since the City owns pumping rights. On May 10, the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD), however, raised its pumping-assessment rate by 9.9 percent.
The other portion of water is imported and treated surface water that the City of Long Beach purchases. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), a wholesale distributor or imported water from the Colorado River and northern California, has also increased its rates.
Last year, the MWD Board of Directors approved a two-year spending plan, increasing its wholesale water rate by 5 percent for this year and next year.
LBWD staff assumes that, in future years, labor costs will jump by 2 percent, MWD rates will rise by 3 percent and WRD rates will increase by 5 percent, according to a staff presentation.
The average monthly combined water and sewer bill for Long Beach single-family residents is $66.02, according to results from a rate study released in March. The average monthly bill for households in Los Angeles County is $73.34. According to LBWD staff, the combined rate increase for fiscal year 2013-14 would add an additional $1.63 to the monthly bill of the average single-family resident in Long Beach.
The water board will further discuss the rate-increase proposal in coming weeks and is scheduled to adopt the budget on June 20. The Long Beach City Council is required to sign off on the budget sometime in September.
The board is required to hold a public hearing and receive public testimony that allows property owners the right to protest any proposed rate increase.

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