Drought fee im­posed to main­tain ser­vice

Glendale says it needs to sup­ple­ment rev­enue lost be­cause of wa­ter cut­backs.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Arin Mikail­ian arin.mikail­ian@latimes.com

Glendale res­i­dents are see­ing a new drought charge when they open their wa­ter bills, a fee aimed at re­coup­ing money needed to main­tain the util­ity as peo­ple con­tinue to con­serve.

Last year, the City Coun­cil en­acted the sec­ond phase of a wa­ter- sav­ing strat­egy in the face of one of the state’s worst droughts.

Phase two re­quired res­i­dents to cut back on wa­ter­ing lawns to three times a week, but the drought charge was post­poned.

Res­i­dents have been do­ing their part in cut­ting back, said Glendale Wa­ter & Power Gen­eral Man­ager Steve Zurn. Wa­ter use is down 26% from the same time last year, but that doesn’t lower the cost of de­liv­er­ing it, he said.

“The rate was based on bal­anc­ing our rev­enue re­quire­ments in re­la­tion to our f ixed- cost needs in­clud­ing cap­i­tal, on­go­ing main­te­nance, stor­age, pump­ing and wa­ter qual­ity, all of which do not di­min­ish re­gard­less of the amount of wa­ter is used,” Zurn said. “We needed to en­sure that those re­quire­ments were al­ways met.”

Util­ity cus­tomers are now be­ing charged an ex­tra 75 cents per hun­dred cu­bic feet, or about 748 gal­lons. The typ­i­cal sin­gle- fam­ily cus­tomer uses about 1,900 cu­bic feet of wa­ter per month, so it would be pay­ing $ 14.25 more, for ex­am­ple.

Zurn said that charge would be can­celed out for the most part by money be­ing saved by us­ing less wa­ter.

He said the coun­cil was pro­gres­sive in en­act­ing the drought charge. Glendale was one of the f irst cities to do so. Wa­ter and power de­part­ments in neigh­bor­ing Bur­bank and Los An­ge­les don’t have drought fees.

Peter Fuad, pres­i­dent of the North­west Glendale Home­own­ers Assn., said he’s cut back on wa­ter­ing his lawn, as have his neigh­bors.

“No one likes to pay more … and we’re get­ting charged for our good work, but I can see the need to main­tain in­fra­struc­ture,” he said.

In the six months be­fore the charge went into ef­fect in March, the util­ity lost about $ 1 mil­lion in po­ten­tial rev­enue be­cause peo­ple were con­serv­ing wa­ter, Zurn said.

The phase- two drought charge will gen­er­ate $ 2.5 mil­lion to $ 3 mil­lion if it stays in ef­fect for a year, he said.

‘ The rates are only in ef­fect as long as those manda­tory mea­sures are in place.’

— Steve Zurn, gen­eral man­ager, Glendale Wa­ter & Power

By Oc­to­ber, Zurn said, he plans to re­turn to the City Coun­cil with an anal­y­sis on whether the city should raise the drought charge to the as­sess­ment that’s part of the third phase of the wa­ter- sav­ing strat­egy, which is $ 1.30 per hun­dred cu­bic feet.

The city is in phase three of manda­tory con­ser­va­tion, cut­ting lawn wa­ter­ing to twice a week.

But Zurn said it’s too early to say whether that fee hike will hap­pen.

“The drought rate is di­rectly tied to manda­tory wa­ter con­ser­va­tion man­dates by the [ City Coun­cil],” he said. “As a re­sult, the rates are only in ef­fect as long as those manda­tory mea­sures are in place. Once lifted, the [ drought fee] is also lifted.”

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