LADWP looks to hike power, water rates for first time in 2 years

File: Crews work to fix water breaks.
File: Crews work to fix water breaks.

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The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced Tuesday that they will be taking tentative steps towards hiking water and power rates for the first time in two years. The announcement comes on the heels of a slew of water breaks in the Fairfax District. Part of the rationale for the increased rates is to help fund infrastructure changes and maintain regular maintenance.

LADWP officials hope to gain City Council approval to hike power rates about 10.5 percent over the next two years. Typical residential customers (roughly two-thirds of L.A. residents) should expect to pay less than an additional $3.50 a month.

LADWP is stressing that the increase will help them catch up on power line maintenance, though the money will also boost renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

"We have put off any, and I do mean any, rate adjustment since spring of 2010," said Ron Nichols, LADWP's general manager. "And we do need rate action as soon as we can get there. We needed it last year, and we need it even more now."

Water rates are set to go up, too: at least 5 percent over two years, and that doesn’t include what customers will pay to supplement the water shortage created by the current drought.

What that will cost isn’t yet clear, though higher prices for imported water are raising rates at several regional utilities.

The 5 percent raise would be the minimum amount DWP needs to maintain federal requirements for fresh water reservoir management.

New ratepayer advocate Fred Pickel will take time to review the proposed increases. DWP officials say they’ll hold meetings to explain the plan to the public.

The rate increases require approval by the city council.

Meanwhile, the breaks on Third Street are finally fixed.

"We suspect that a pressure relief valve or valves did not open up as was expected to do," said Jim McDaniel, LADWP senior assistant general manager for the water system. "The ages of the lines that broke varied from 43 years old to 85 years old. They were all cast iron mains. Most of them were in areas that [have] been problem areas."