OCEANSIDE — The City Council unanimously approved the introduction of an ordinance for increased tiered water rates on Wednesday.
The average single-family household will see a $2.68 a month increase.
High water users of the same size household will need to shell out $12.26 more a month come January.
“Those who do not comply with (water reduction) regulations will be paying more, and should pay more,” Jason Dafforn, city interim water utilities director, said.
Oceanside has reduced water use by over 27 percent. State mandated water conservation measures are still in effect, and will continue.
Higher city water rates will also continue, even after emergency conservation measures are lifted.
There were numerous speakers, most of whom opposed the increase, and some who asked if it could be postponed or spread out over time.
“There have been water rate hikes for three years straight,” Rick Kratcoski, Oceanside resident, said. “Once they’re set they’re going to stay that way. We are conserving and get punished for it.”
Other speakers suggested utilizing Gopher Canyon damn, and imposing strict penalties for over use of water.
City staff and council said increases are unwelcome but necessary to pay San Diego County Water Authority pass through charges, and city operations and infrastructure costs.
“The only way we can do this is together,” Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said. “Water will be as affordable as we can make it.”
The city is working towards establishing a 50 percent local water supply by 2030, so it will be less dependent on imported water, and not subject to the continually increasing costs to buy it.
To do so city infrastructure must be kept up and water projects must continue.
“We need to stay whole as a utility and continue with the projects,” Dafforn said.
Another twist is water conservation efforts have caused a revenue shortfall for the city, while its fixed costs have increased.
If rates are not increased all water capital projects would need to be suspended, rates would continue to climb, there would be an increase in neglected system emergency repairs, and the city credit rating would be negatively impacted.
Mayor Jim Wood summed it up saying if the rate increase is not approved “we would go bankrupt and not get any water services.”
Council also approved the introduction of an ordinance to increase wastewater rates by 3 percent across the board.
The City Council will give final approval of both ordinances Dec. 2. Higher rates are set go into effect Jan. 4. The increase puts Oceanside water rates slightly below the San Diego County medium cost for water.