Rate Study Update
Last week the Board of Directors held a special meeting with representatives from Raftelis Financial Consultants who have been retained to complete the rate study.
The Board has neither approved nor agreed to any rates. The timeline shared at the meeting indicated that a proposed rate structure could be available for review later this spring. Rates have not increased since 2016, and while it can be anticipated that rates may increase somewhat, Board members continue to clearly state that any increase is expected to have a direct correlation to providing local and reliable supplies for the long-term.
At last week's meeting, Directors confirmed important objectives for the rate study, including:
1) Minimize rate impacts and annual increases
2) Promote water efficiency
3) Develop equitable rates across customer classes
Predictability, resilience, and reliability at a reasonable cost was the over-riding message, as the Board of Directors reiterated their commitment to a proactive water supply strategy and plan.
So we won't be as vulnerable as we were during the last drought, the District is taking definitive actions to reduce its reliance on rainfall dependent sources. Examples include groundwater banking, which secures the ongoing investment in the State Water Project, agreement on terms for a long-term water supply contract with the City of Santa Barbara which would give the District the security of Desalination, and steady progress on implementing water reuse/recycling at meaningful volumes.
There are numerous factors to consider as the District plans for future water supply, including climate change, the severity of the recent drought, compromised capacity in Lake Cachuma and Jameson Lake due to the impacts of the Whittier and Thomas Fires, and the likelihood that in the future it may be more difficult to buy water on the spot market - the District's "go-to" source during prior droughts. Through a series of meetings, Board and staff have been rigorously reviewing risks, costs, and benefits of water supply alternatives in order to develop a sound plan that will meet the District's needs for both reliability and affordability.
The public will continue to be notified about rate study developments, and is reminded that there will be a public review and input period prior to any rates being adopted.