Between pass-throughs and rate hikes and surcharges and transfers to other uses, you might have noticed your bills for water and power have been soaring for years.
You ain’t seen nothing yet — utilities are the certain cash cow for government at all levels, a reservoir of money that can be used just about anyway your elected officials want if they are lucky enough to operate their own water and/or power systems like the LADWP.com (a web address that makes clear it’s a business, not a government agency).
What with the Colorado River supply evaporated and the Owens Valley in revolt against being dried out for the benefit of LA and the state incapable of resolving the endless water wars between north and south, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is your broker, your advocate, your protector.
Not an honest one to be sure but it’s all you got to be confident that when you turn the tap, water of a heavily chemicalized nature will flow.
This is a desert after all and if you were down to your last drop of the precious fluid, you would pay just anything for it.
That’s the viewpoint adopted by public and private agencies increasingly in recent years to drive up your water rates dramatically with even sharper increases on the table and planned for years to come with the likelihood that more of your water will come from recycled what you flush down the the toilet and other reuses that require even more chemical treatment.
Now the MWD like the LADWP and other water agencies have decided to squeeze every cent they can from you under threat that you will be left high and dry if you don’t pay up.
Of course, you know nothing about this.
MWD is as obscure as a critically important public agency could be. It supplies most of the water to nearly 20 million people who are represented by political appointees from six counties of Southern California.
The MWD is awash in your money. Here’s the annual percentage increases imposed since 2008: 6%, 14%, 20%, 7.5%, 7.5%, 5% and 5% more come Jan. 1.
Wow, you might say, water is getting really expensive. But that isn’t the case. The main problem is you are using less water even in these dry times when rainfall and snowpack are low.
The MWD supplied 2.26 million acre feet of water in 2008, 2.16 million in 2009, dropping to 1.77 million in 2010 and staying in that range with 1.70 million acre feet anticipated this year and next.
It is the charges to cities and water companies that have soared while the MWD budget itself has remained more or less the same at $1.8 billion a year.
What has changed is the reserve fund, the rainy day water fund to deal with the unforeseen.
The 7.5% rate hike in 2012 produced a surplus of $97 million but that didn’t stop the MWD Board — dominated by LA and its satellite cities sort of like the Soviet Union and its satellite countries — from rejecting calls for a modest 3 % hike this year, imposing a 5 % increase instead.
The result is a windfall surplus of $217 million in the 12 months ending June 30 and a reserve fund so awash in cash that it has $549 million in the bank — $75 million more than it is allowed to have in reserve by its own rules and state law despite metrics on debt, costs and infrastructure needs that are as healthy as they have ever been.
So why does the MWD want to hoard even more money by changing the rules they made and sticking to a 5% rate increase that will add even more money?
And why does the LADWP which fought for nearly 50 years to eliminate property taxes as a major source of revenue rather than water sales now want to slug homeowners and businesses with increased charges when LA has by far the highest property valuations?
It’s politics, all part of a back room deal you’re not supposed to know anything about, part of a grand scheme being hatched in smokeless rooms by the governor, legislators and power brokers in our cities and counties.
All they want is your money anyway they can get it even as in this case they don’t even know what to do with it.
Only one major organization is fighting this, the San Diego County Water Authority, whose paid “Get the Facts” advertisement outlining its long war over MWD policies is in the upper right hand corner of this page.
You can read the letter they sent to MWD officials here (2013-0605_MWD Board Items 8-1 and 8-2-1) and you can read the MWD board’s motions here (06112013 BOD 8-1 B-L-1) and here (06112013 BOD 8-2 B-L-1).
What San Diego wants is to have the $75 million in surplus charges returned to the agencies — all of which are seeking higher and higher rates for water as well as power — and could use the money to reduce the burden on their ratepayers.
It would mean a 21 percent refund or nearly $16 million to LA, nearly 22 percent or more than $16 million to San Diego that has long-standing grievance over MWD’s unfair charges for transferring its water supply from the desert and relative amounts to all the cities and agencies that rely on MWD that offers no serious explanation of why it wants to hoard the public’s money. Here’s the chart: