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Proposed water rate increase would affect most Citrus Heights residents

Updated Oct. 26, 9:19 a.m.–
A public hearing at the Rusch Park Community Center has been set for Nov. 17, in light of a proposed water rate increase that would affect most Citrus Heights water users.

In a recent mailer to customers, the Citrus Heights Water District said the rate increase is necessary to replace old water mains, continue development of its groundwater well system, and to begin replacing older water meters with ones able to provide “timely water use data to customers.”

If approved, water use rates would rise about 10 cents per unit, bringing the base rate up to 87 cents per 748 gallons, the District mailer shows. Service charge rates would also increase, making a typical customer’s bi-monthly bill rise by a total of about $12 under the proposal, according to the CHWD web site.

A prior three percent rate increase was passed last November, along with approval of a new water shortage pricing structure that allows temporary enactment of higher rates during water crises.  The District’s board later voted to enact a 25 percent temporary rate increase in conjunction with a “Stage 4 Water Warning” declaration that came into effect on July 15 of this year. According to a statement on the District’s web site, the board will consider discontinuing the temporary rate increase, as part of the current proposal.

[From May: CHWD declares stage 4 water crisis; will hire ‘water police’]

CHWD Assistant General Manager Hilary Straus said the 30-employee District faces a difficult challenge to show ratepayers the need for capital investment in the District’s water delivery infrastructure, since much of the underground systems can’t be seen by customers. Citing an underground water main break that flooded part of UCLA and spewed millions of gallons of water 30 feet in the air last summer, Straus said the local District seeks to be proactive in repairing and replacing aging water mains to avoid similar “catastrophic failures and disruptions to service.”

Last December, a water main under Mariposa Avenue near Antelope Road broke overnight, causing the street to be closed down for most of the day while water district crews repaired the break. At least 26 water mains have broken in the District so far in 2015, according the the District’s mailer, but that number is down from a reported 86 breaks in 2001. Straus said the drop is due to recent investment in infrastructure.

Straus said the District has focused attention on educational outreach, beginning with the initial mailer about the proposal and continuing with question-and-answer Powerpoint presentations at various neighborhood and club meetings. The District is scheduled to make presentations next week at both Neighborhood Area 6 and area 10 meetings.

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About a third of Citrus Heights residents are served by neighboring water districts and will not face the proposed rate increase, due to water district service areas differing from city boundaries.

The upcoming hearing is scheduled to take place at 7810 Auburn Blvd. on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 6:30 p.m. In accordance with Prop 218, written protests can be mailed to the CHWD secretary, at P.O. Box 286, Citrus Heights, CA 95611.

*Note: This is the first in a series of articles about water use in Citrus Heights and proposed water rate increases.

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