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Water rates rise for Santa Fe Irrigation District customers

RANCHO SANTA FE — An increase in water rates for users of the Santa Fe Irrigation District went into effect on Jan. 1. 

While how much more a water bill will rise depends on how large a property and how many people are using water at the home, the average family will see their bill rise about $28 every two months, or about $14 a month.

The vote on the increase was decided in November, before the terms of board members Ken Dunford and Robert Irvin expired and the newly elected board members took their places.

The vote was a result of it being the final year of a three-year water rate proposal approved by the board on November 2010 at a public hearing.

“We did a public notice, which means we sent to each of our customers a notice that we were having a public hearing and that we are considering a rate increase on a certain date. We tell them we are going to set the rates for the next three years,” said Jeanne Deaver, administrative manager for the district.

“In 2010, we said it could go up 12 percent each of the three years,” she said. “It did go up 12 percent the first year, but in 2012 it went up only 6 percent and in 2013, only 6 percent.”

The 6 percent increase beginning this year is to be used to buy imported water for the San Diego County Water Authority and for maintenance to the district’s infrastructure.

Newly elected board member Greg Gruzdowich told the Rancho Santa Fe Association that he asked the current water board to wait on the November 2012 vote because of the possibility of new board members.

“I asked them to wait until after the election, but they refused,” Gruzdowich said at a November meeting of the Association.

Gruzdowich and Alan Smerican were elected in November, but their terms did not start until January after the increase was decided.

Santa Fe Irrigation District provides water to a portion of Rancho Santa Fe and to a total of 20,000 customers. It is governed by a five-member board elected for four years. Each represents a geographical division of the service area, but they all make decisions affecting the entire district. At the moment, the district provides 60 percent imported water, 35 percent local water and 5 percent recycled water. The new board will continue to grapple with the issues of ever-rising prices for imported water, an aging infrastructure and how to keep operation costs as low as possible.

The cost of imported water has skyrocketed in the past few years and the rates to the customer have continued to rise.

Customers have seen a 74 percent increase in their water bills over the last decade.

Deaver said the only reaction she has gotten from customers is when someone calls and wants to know why their water bill is higher.