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Montecito Water District Reports on the Rate Study, Recycled Water and More

 

RATE STUDY UPDATE:

After numerous committee meetings, the Board of Directors took its first look at draft rate scenarios this week. The presentation from consultant NBS was described as an introduction to “Lots of information, and lots of moving parts.” Designed to illustrate various scenarios created by adjusting the balance between fixed and variable costs, the presentation identified possible tiers, example rates, and a number of related policy matters that the Board will consider before rates can be finalized.

After reviewing the presentation, the Board directed the Finance Committee and staff to work with the consultant to address questions raised during the presentation.  Finalizing a draft proposal that the Board agrees is ready for public review is the next step. A sample timeline included in the presentation showed that new rates would not be implemented before May, 2020, after ample time for public comment and review, and it was stated that the process may take longer.

Members of the public present suggested that the analysis be run with and without the cost for “desalination,” referring to the cost of a pending 50-year water supply agreement with the City of Santa Barbara.

Board member Brian Goebel commented, “Without desal, we would have to figure out how to hedge against risk of massive downturn in supply as was the case during the past 7 years of drought. It is hard to predict what the true cost of living without a reliable water supply would be in our community during the next severe drought, but it would almost certainly be higher than it was during the last one. Desalination has a set cost, and we would be taking delivery of all the agreed upon water. It is a sure thing and something you can plan on. It increases our resiliency.”

Director Floyd Wicks added, “During the recent drought, when water supplies for Montecito and Summerland were so uncertain and the cost was rife with penalties, the public was angry, and rightfully so. With reliable local supplies representing a third of our total water needs coming from Santa Barbara’s desal plant, we won’t need to go there again.”

Public entities typically set rates every 3-5 years, or whenever changes to operations impact the cost of service. Montecito Water District last raised rates in 2016.

Draft Rate Study Timeline

RECYCLED WATER / WATER REUSE: 

As part of a review of a year’s worth of progress towards implementing recycled water, the Board adopted Resolution 2189 affirming MWD’s vision and its intent to proceed with an NPR project (purple pipe/for irrigation only). Director Goebel remarked, “This Board is doing exactly what it said it was going to do a year ago—we set out a process and we are sticking to it: we are carefully evaluating the most efficient and economical way to implement a meaningful recycled water project for the community, and we are right on schedule.”

Goebel was sworn into office in December, 2018 and serves on the Strategic Planning Committee which has been meeting jointly with the Montecito Sanitary District since February, 2019. His verbal chronology included a summary of the results received last month from the Groundwater Augmentation Feasibility Study which effectively ruled out IPR (groundwater injection). Fiduciary responsibility and sound methodology were cited as overriding concerns as MWD looks to maximize the relatively small volume of wastewater available for recycling and keep unit costs low.  Recycled water is a named “local, reliable supply” in MWD’s Urban Water Management Plan, and if added to the District’s water supply portfolio would extend drinking water supplies, enhance water supply reliability, and reduce reliance on imported water supplies.

FACILITIES & CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS:

“Smart Meter” installation will begin in early 2020. MWD conducted a needs inventory, secured funding, and began purchasing equipment this year, and an installation contract for work to begin in January has been awarded to Concord Utility Services. Modernizing water meters will help MWD and its customers better manage water resources. When fully implemented, the smart meters will provide more accurate flow monitoring and timely reporting of usage. This translates into earlier detection of leaks and a reduction in unintended water loss–important for individual customers and for the community at-large.  District customers will receive additional communications on the process in the coming months.

Agendas, Packets, and Minutes can be found on the District’s web site. Meeting times are posted to the online District Calendar, and questions can be directed to 805.969.2271 or customerservice@montecitowater.com. All meetings are open to the public and participation is encouraged.

Founded in 1921, The Montecito Water District serves a population of approximately 13,100, providing water to more than 4,600 customers. The Montecito Water District's mission is to provide an adequate and reliable supply of high quality water to the residents of Montecito and Summerland, at the most reasonable cost. In carrying out this mission, the District places particular emphasis on providing outstanding customer service, conducting its operations in an environmentally sensitive manner, and working cooperatively with other agencies. For additional information visit www.montecitowater.com.