Drought fee imposed to maintain service
Glendale says it needs to supplement revenue lost because of water cutbacks.
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.”