By KAREN PEARLMAN
Water and sewer rates for Padre Dam Municipal Water District customers are going up, despite pushback from some residents at a public hearing last week.
The five-member water board approved rate hikes that will take effect in November. The average residential Padre Dam customer will pay about $155 a month for water and sewer services, up from $151.
Further rate hikes are scheduled yearly through 2021. Increases will vary by customer based on water consumption and the type of dwelling — single family, multifamily, commercial, condominiums, hotels or apartments.
Padre Dam General Manager Allen Carlisle and several other Padre Dam officials spent an hour explaining the reasons behind the rate hike to about 30 people on June 21. The district maintains that aging infrastructure has constant, fixed costs for maintenance and replacement of nearly 400 miles of pipes.
The district’s base is in Santee, but its service area includes Alpine and Crest, and Carlisle explained that pumping water out of Santee up to more than 2,600 feet also has a price.
Padre Dam continues to work on its water treatment plan at the Ray Stoyer Water Recycling Facility to turn wastewater into drinking water. But until it has that up and running, the water agency continues to depend solely on water imported through the San Diego County Water Authority. Padre Dam also pays to treat residents’ sewage through the city of San Diego’s metropolitan wastewater system.
The water purification program will ultimately produce up to 30 percent of East County’s drinking water and help reduce our reliance on imported water, Carlisle said.
Santee resident Suzanne Till was one of five speakers who told Carlisle and the board how frustrated they are at the continual rate hikes, despite measures including shorter showers and converting their yards from grass to drought-tolerant landscaping.
Padre Dam has the fourth-most expensive water in San Diego County at $96 a month. The average cost for water per month in San Diego County is $76. Till created a power point presentation noting that the district’s rate structure doesn’t do enough to encourage water conservation. She said there is a lack of incentive to conserve water, and “no evidence of cooperation with the state of California to improve conservation.”
Till also shared her presentation the next day at a San Diego County Water Authority meeting. “Water is my most expensive utility bill,” Till said. “A $100 water bill just for showers and flushing toilets is unacceptable… they need to address the issue for fixed and/or low income people.”
Padre Dam provides water, sewer, recycled water and recreation services to nearly 100,000 residents in Santee, El Cajon, Lakeside, Alpine and other unincorporated areas in East County. As a not-for-profit organization, Padre Dam is prohibited from making a profit on the water and
services it provides.