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For Immediate Release
May 9, 2013

Contact:
Malcolm Smith
Public Communications Manager
650-780-7305

City to Consider Water and Sewer Rate Increases
Community Information Meeting - May 22
Public Hearing - June 10

Redwood City, CA - A safe, stable water supply and a dependable sewage collection and treatment system are two of the most basic, critical services provided to the community by Redwood City. No one wants to turn on their faucet and see it run dry, or experience a sewer line break in their neighborhood. When the next big earthquake hits, having these systems in a condition to resist damage is of utmost importance. Redwood City is constantly working to ensure these systems are up-to-date, dependable, and safe. Water and sewer rates pay for these services, and those rates are used only for these services. However, there are significant and escalating costs involved with making sure the community's water and sewer services are readily available and in good working order. When the City's cost of providing these services goes up, the rates must be raised in order to fund those escalating costs.

To continue to fund the rising costs of providing these services, the City Council of Redwood City will be considering a 9% increase in water and sewer rates in each of the next three years - 2013/14, 2014/15, and 2015/16. If approved, the new rates will be effective August 1, 2013; July 1, 2014; and July 1, 2015.    

The public hearing will take place on Monday, June 10, 2013. The meeting starts at 7 pm at City Hall, 1017 Middlefield Road.

WATER - if approved, for a typical household (using 10 units of water every two months) that 9% will amount to increases of about:  
  • $3.33 per month in the first year
  • $3.60 per month in the second year
  • $3.91 per month in the third year

SEWER - if approved, for residents that 9% will amount to increases of about:  

  • $5.21 per month in the first year  
  • $5.68 per month in the second year  
  • $6.18 per month in the third year  

More detailed information is online at www.redwoodcity.org/water.

Prior to the June 10 public hearing a community information meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at 7 pm, at the Public Works building, 1400 Broadway. There, the community can get information on water and sewer services, the ongoing maintenance and improvement projects, and the proposed rate increases. A notice of this proposed rate increase has been mailed to all property owners, and includes information on the procedure for protesting the proposal. That, and more information about the proposed rate increases, can be found www.redwoodcity.org/water.  

The City staff and Council understand that these difficult economic times are a struggle for many people, and share customers' anxiety about escalating monthly bills. While any rate increase is unpleasant, hopefully this proposal is not a surprise, as over the last few years the City has continually reiterated to the community that annual increases would be necessary for the foreseeable future, due to unavoidable increasing costs. Even with these proposed increases, Redwood City's rates will still be at or below the average for Peninsula communities, and the community will be assured of the most dependable water and sewer services possible.

Redwood City buys all of our community's drinking water from one source - the Hetch Hetchy regional water system, administered by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). The SFPUC rates have increased over the years, sometimes quite significantly (38% in 2011, for example), other times less-so.

In addition to the actual cost of water, the City must also pay its share of the financing of the SFPUC's $4.6 billion multi-year capital improvement program to upgrade the water distribution system. The purpose of those upgrades is to ensure seismic and delivery reliability, and meet water quality requirements, and meet water supply goals. Redwood City's portion is paid partly through the SFPUC wholesale water rate.

While Redwood City's total cost to acquire drinking water from the SFPUC is expected to decrease by 4.1% in FY 2013-14, it is projected to then increase by 30.2% in FY2014-15 and 10.7% in FY 2015-16. As in past years, Redwood City tries to "smooth out" those varying, unpredictable costs by approving steady, moderate increases each year so that over time we can keep pace with the overall cost increases without the drastic "see-saw" range of increases we are faced with. We've done this by supplementing the rates with reserves (from the rates you're paying), which allows us to keep pace, over time, with the actual costs of providing a high quality, dependable water supply to the community.

As a result, there have been average annual increases of about 8-10% over the last few years, instead of much higher and/or widely varying changes on a more periodic basis. The City must pass cost increases along to our customers in order to continue to fund the maintenance and operation of a reliable, efficient, long-term water supply system both for existing customers and for the generations of the future.  

There are a number of major regional and local projects to upgrade and protect water and sewer systems, which are driving these proposed rate increases. For the water system, projects include:

  • $80 million over the next 15-20 years for the repair, replacement, and maintenance of Redwood City's drinking water system
  • $10 million annually over the next 25-30 years for Redwood City's share of the seismic upgrade of the Hetch Hetchy water system
For the sewer system, those projects include:
  • $200 million over the next 8 - 10 years for Redwood City's share of the replacement of outdated facilities at the regional sewage treatment plant (SBSA)
  • $100 million over the next 8 -10 years for the repair/replacement of the City's aging sewer infrastructure
In the coming years, Redwood City will continue to see additional proposed rate increases for both water and sewer services, in order to meet the increasing costs of providing these services. While such increases are challenging, they are unavoidable and urgently needed in order to ensure our community has quality water and sewer systems.

Please see www.redwoodcity.org/water to learn more about the proposed rate increases. 

Visit Redwood City's award-winning website at www.redwoodcity.org for information about the City and its services, the community, recreation programs, education, and local business. Subscribe to Redwood City's email newsletter and other City documents by visiting www.redwoodcity.org/newsletters.

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