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Any changes to how Ventura’s water and wastewater rates are structured involves a deliberate series of steps to ensure that rates remain affordable, equitable, and stable.
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The City must continually invest in our water and wastewater systems to maintain reliable services. The funds generated by water and wastewater rates are used to provide safe drinking water and treatment of wastewater for over 110,000 customers. Water and wastewater rates fund facility and infrastructure operations, maintenance and repairs, cover debt payments, build emergency reserves, and allow investments in capital projects. Rate adjustments are needed to advance water and wastewater projects prioritized in our master planning and capital improvement plans. Adjustments are evaluated normally on a 5-year cycle, and factor in inflation rate adjustments, cost of service changes, drought-related impacts, water quality impacts, and regulatory mandates.
Based on recent plans and studies, it is projected that $400 million is needed in water and wastewater expenditures over the next six years to support our community. To meet this demand, an increase in water and wastewater rates is needed in 2021. The most recent rate study demonstrates a need for an annual rate increase of seven percent for water service and six percent for wastewater service over the next five years. The increase is approximately $7.76 each month for the average homeowner. The changes to rates provide our community with the means to address critical challenges as well as provide new opportunities to strengthen our community’s water resiliency including:
Extensive water supply planning efforts show that our community needs further development of water supplies to have sufficient water resources for the future and for drought. There also are current constraints and insecurity in our existing water supply resources —requiring that supplemental supplies and additional supplies are available.
Existing water sources continue to be challenged and are all dependent on the climatic conditions of our area. New regulations, drought, and climate change continue to threaten the reliability of our water supply. Rates fund key projects that will diversify our water supplies, including adding a drought-resilient supply. More information regarding future supply and demand projections is outlined in the 2020 Comprehensive Water Resources Report.
Yes, rates would change even if we did not need additional supplies to address aging infrastructure, cost of service and inflation, regulatory water quality improvements, operations and maintenance cost changes and more.
Yes. Ventura residents have done a commendable job making water conservation a part of daily life. Since 2013, demand has decreased by about 20 percent due to implementation of our water conservation actions. However, even with water conservation, our gap between water supply and demand continues to be close. It is critical that we have supplies that are resilient to impacts, able to support the community through drought periods, and withstand unforeseen challenges. Factors that impact water supply include:
New development helps to pay for new water. Development and growth projections are part of several planning steps that lead up to rate structure modeling for the future. The following reports consider population changes and demand impacts:
In 2016, the City adopted a Water Rights Dedication and Water Resources Net Zero Policy Ordinance, which requires new development to offset their projected new demands on the City’s water supply by dedicating water rights, implementing extraordinary conservation measures, and/or paying a fee that goes towards paying for future water supply projects, so that existing rate payers do not absorb the entire cost of necessary future water supplies.
Water and wastewater rates are essential for Ventura Water’s management, operations and maintenance of 675 miles of pipelines, 30 pump stations, three water treatment facilities, one wastewater treatment facility, and 27 tanks and reservoirs that serve more than 110,000 residents, businesses, and visitors. Investment in our water and wastewater systems directly translates to value for our customers.
Like all of our life-giving services and necessary assets, our water and wastewater infrastructure must adapt to changes, planned and unplanned impacts, and be repaired and replaced as infrastructure ages.
A few of the longer-term, multi-benefit projects that Ventura Water is leading for our community include:
The last time Ventura Water assessed cost of services through a rates study was in fiscal year 2013-14. Water shortage rates were also evaluated in 2015. Ventura’s water and wastewater rates have not increased in more than three years.
Compared to neighboring communities, Ventura’s rates have remained low. An average single family residential customer in Ventura pays $25.00 less than the average monthly water and wastewater rates compared to nearby areas. A comparison of surrounding community rates is provided here.
VenturaWaterPure includes several project components that involve the Water and Wastewater Utilities. The project components include: a new advanced treatment facility to create a new purified water resource to be injected into a local groundwater basin; an outfall pipeline essential for brine disposal; and pipelines to connect existing treatment facilities and recharge functions. The rate changes, which were unanimously approved by City Council in May 2021 for implementation in July 2021, support the revenue adjustments needed to complete VenturaWaterPure along with many other capital improvement projects.
Ventura Water and the Ventura Water Commission explored every opportunity to minimize impacts to our ratepayers while addressing critical water supply needs. One way to keep rates relatively affordable is by pursuing funding approaches that reduce costs for ratepayers such as State and Federal grants, low-interest loan programs, and cost-sharing among regional partners.
Ventura residents have done an outstanding job of making conservation a way of life and protecting our local water resources. However, VenturaWaterPure is a multi-benefit solution that addresses three key water challenges that conservation alone cannot solve.
VenturaWaterPure was selected after extensive evaluation of numerous alternatives, presented in the certified Ventura Water Supply Projects Environmental Impact Report in 2019.
The following elements of the rate structure were evaluated as part of the Water and Wastewater Rate Study:
Raftelis Financial Consultants, Ventura Water’s rate planning consultant, updated the financial plan and established costs of service, which informed the recommended changes to VenturaWater’s rates. Over the Fall and Winter of 2020-21, the Water Commission reviewed the rate modifications based on the completed Cost of Service and Rate Design Study. Milestones ahead include:
Rates are evaluated every five years by Ventura Water, the Water Commission, and City Council. Updates are based on the evaluation.
Ventura Water, in partnership with the Water Commission and financial experts, evaluate and recommend rate changes, with opportunities who public input. Ventura City Council approves the rate changes Council reviewed the Water Commission’s recommendations on Monday the rate changes. Council reviewed the Water Commissions recommendations on Monday, March 22, 2021, and formally adopted the adjusted rates in a public hearing on Monday, May 17,2021.
A new Cost of Service and Rate Design Study was conducted to ensure that the proposed rates are equitable and comply with California Proposition 218 requirements. The Cost of Service Study assessed whether customers by category are paying their equitable portion of the costs for the services they are consuming.
To invest in the right solutions at the right time, Ventura Water conducts ongoing planning and studies that evaluate everything from water demand and supply changes to climate change impacts and new regulatory mandates. Plans often look as much as 30 years into the future. The planning supports Ventura Water’s data-driven process to evaluate and update water and wastewater rate structures every five years.
The data-driven process to evaluate and update rates involves considerations from financial experts, key stakeholders, community members and policy makers.
Ventura Water is committed to transparency and communications throughout the process. The City is required to provide notice to ratepayers informing them of proposed rate changes pursuant to a provision in the California Constitution commonly referred to as Proposition 218.The notice must be mailed at least 45 days before the hearing when the rate change will be considered by City Council for approval. This notice was mailed to Ventura Water customers in April 2021.
Results of the recent rate study have shown that an annual rate increase of seven percent for water service and six percent for wastewater service is needed over the next five years. For the average homeowner, this will amount to about a $7.76 increase to a monthly bill, each year for the next five years. These increased rates remain comparable or even less than in neighboring cities.
Expanded Tier 1 rates: The proposed modified rate structure will expand Tier 1 rates to improve affordability for low-volume water use up to 6 hundred cubic feet (HCF). This means that more residents (51 percent versus 21 percent of Ventura residents) will fall under the most affordable water rate tier.
More precise wastewater charges: The proposed modified rate structure will eliminate the wastewater determination period, meaning that wastewater use will be based on monthly versus seasonal use.
Monthly billing: Beginning in July 2021, Ventura Water customers will be billed monthly versus bi-monthly and a newly designed bill will make it easy for customers to understand their bill.