The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power says it needs to raise consumer bills in order to meet federal and state drinking water standards. The plan it's sending forward to the L.A. City Council would push the average homeowner's bill up about 5 dollars over this year.
The DWP wants to bump up a fee called the water quality cost adjustment factor. If approved by the City Council, that bump would mean the average homeowner pays 45 dollars a month for water, up from 40 dollars this year.
But DWP General Manager Ron Nichols argues the increase isn’t really that steep. Thanks to wet winters, he says customers have paid less for water lately.
"I don’t know that most people would recognize that actually their water rates have been declining every quarter for the last five quarters," he said at a meeting of water and power commissioners.
Several city council members have vowed to block rate hikes until a newly created consumer advocate position gets filled. A citizen’s committee, overseen by the city council, is doing the hiring. But Nichols says the utility just can’t wait for that person to come on board.
The water quality fee hike DWP wants hasn’t generated outrage the way earlier rate hike plans have. Even longtime critics such as Tony Wilkinson, who chairs a committee of neighborhood council members monitoring the DWP, say they understand the utility’s need to pay for reservoir upgrades and better water treatment facilities.
"Our expenditures in water quality have exceeded the cap amount for six years, and all the items being discussed have been before the public for a long time," Wilkinson told the board. "I think it’s high time that this particular adjustment factor is changed."
City council will take up this bump in water fees in January.