San Diego Leaders Approve City's First Wastewater Hike in 10 Years

As part of Prop. 218, no changes will be made if a majority of ratepayers -- at least 130,000 -- submit written protests

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The San Diego City Council unanimously approved a wastewater rate hike Tuesday, increasing the rates for single-family homes by 5% starting in January and additional increases totaling around 17% through 2025.

Under the city's first wastewater rate increase proposal in 10 years, San Diego businesses and residents of apartment buildings will initially pay cheaper wastewater rates, while residents of single-family homes would see their rates go up.

San Diego’s leaders will vote on a proposal to increase wastewater and water rates for homeowners. NBC 7’s Nicole Gomez has more on what the city council will consider.

The city recently conducted a cost-of-service study on wastewater -- or sewer -- rates to evaluate future revenue requirements for operating and capital costs. The study found that if the city's sewer rates remain unchanged, there will not be enough revenue to provide necessary wastewater and recycled water services between fiscal years 2022 and 2025. As a result, the Public Utilities Department proposed a four-year consecutive rate increase starting with 5% in 2022, up to 4% in fiscal years 2023 and 2024, and up to 3% in fiscal year 2025.

Businesses and apartments will pay 5% and 12.1% less, respectively -- at least at first.

The city council voted 8-0 in favor of the hike with District 5 Councilmember Marni Von WIlpert absent. The rate hike, impacting all 2.2 million city sewer customers, will take effect Jan. 1.

According to the city, the rate increases for sewer services are intended to help the city continue to upgrade core infrastructure by replacing aging pipes and sewer mains and fund future investments like Pure Water -- a water recycling project tended to avoid wastewater treatment cost increases and reduce discharges to the ocean.

In a separate vote Tuesday, the council also voted to increase water rates next year to cover a "pass-through" charge from the San Diego County Water Authority -- an adjustment to account for rising water fees. The city imports as much as 90% of its water, the bulk of which is purchased from the water authority -- which serves 24 cities and water districts throughout the region. The city approved a rate adjustment of approximately 3% starting in 2022.

However, none of these changes will happen if a majority of ratepayers submit written protests -- part of Proposition 218.

City officials said the last time the city changed water rates, in 2012, it received about 20,000 written protests -- short of the around 130,000 required to stop the increase.

For financial assistance and other related information, visit sandiego.gov/public-utilities.

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