Are Water, Wastewater Bills About to Rise?

NBC 7 Responds looks at the increase and what it means for consumers.

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Water and wastewater bills could be going up as soon as next year.

While water rates have increased in the past few years, it's been longer since wastewater rates changed.

"We have not had an increase in over a decade, more than 10 years," said Shauna Lorance, director of the city of San Diego's Public Utilities.

Drinking water rates did increase about two years ago, and under this proposal, they will likely be going up another 3%. The biggest change will be for wastewater charges.

People should soon receive notices in the mail informing them about the city council's vote on Sept. 21 and about a hearing on a four-year plan.

Under that plan, wastewater rates would increase by 5% during the first year after passage, going up an additional 4% in the next 12 months. The third year, consumers would have to pay another 4%, then, in the fourth year, there would be a final 3% increase. The money would be used to help maintain the 6,000 miles of water and sewer lines, along with the sewer treatment plants and the Pure Water San Diego project, which will clean and recycle water. Officials expect that project to supply the city with up to 40% of the local water supply by 2035.

Lorance said not all wastewater customers will see the first year's increase. Under the new rates, she said, multi-family units like apartments and condos might see rates go down.

"Some of the costs are going up higher," Lorance said. "In this case, single-family residences need to be paying more, a higher allocation of those costs." After the first year, customers would see the same percentage increase for wastewater.

Consumer groups say even though the increase might be needed, they're not sure now would be the right time.

"When people can't pay their rent and people can't pay their utility bills, I don't believe that now is a good time to say, 'Let's increase them,' " said Wayne Rosenbaum of the consumer group UCAN.

The city says a study found delaying the increase would only make the problem worse and possibly lead to larger increases down the road. Lorance said the rates might not go up as high as the proposal lists.

"These are maximum amounts," Lorance said. "If we are able to get any grants, then that will offset [a percentage] the rate increase."

To learn more about the potential increases, register for community forums or to have your voice heard at the public hearing on Sept. 21, visit the San Diego Public Utilities' website

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