Palmdale Water District (PWD) customers will begin seeing new water rates reflected in billing for water use starting in the new year. The PWD Board of Directors voted unanimously in October to increase water revenues by 8.1% annually for each of the next five years beginning Jan. 1, 2020, but the increase for each customer will vary depending on water use.
In a typical single-family household with a one-inch or smaller meter, the fixed rate will edge up slightly from $37.77 to $38.22, an increase of 45 cents. If that household uses 17 hundred cubic feet (hcf) of water, which is the average per month for PWD’s residential customers, the new rate will increase the monthly bill by $5.27, or from $53.36 to $58.63. Seventeen hcf is about 12,716 gallons of water.
Comparing the new rates for 17 hcf per month usage to nearby water agencies, PWD is below the average of $65.50.
Palmdale Water District (PWD) conducted the 2019 Rate Study with consultant Robert D. Niehaus, Inc. (RDN), who analyzed financials to develop a water budget structure for years 2020-2024. Review the final 2019 Rate Study.
Every five years, PWD conducts a rate study that considers the costs of maintaining its infrastructure, new projects, water imports, staffing and anything else related to the District’s financial needs. The figures from the Rate Study were used to determine water rates needed to maintain economic stability for the next five years. The suggested rate structure adjustments were shared with the public in August at a Board meeting. Property owners and customers received a public notice in the mail. (Spanish)
All public water agencies must go through a similar process due to CA Proposition 218, which was passed in 1996 by California voters. It establishes the process by which public agencies can raise fees for services and ensures that any increase will not be more than what it costs to treat and deliver water to ratepayers homes.
Aerial Landscape Mapping Used to Improve Water Allocation for Customers in the 2019 Rate Study
As part of the 2019 Rate Study, PWD is using data from a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based aerial landscape mapping database to obtain actual square footage of customers’ outdoor water needs. Knowing the accurate outdoor landscape size of each parcel will allow better water allocation for customers.
PWD has contracted with Eagle Aerial Solutions for the Irrigated Vegetation Mapping Program, which has a 95%-plus accuracy rate for showing a parcel’s landscape make up. The map can identify structures, hardscapes, pools, irrigated landscaping and artificial turf.
The flights over Palmdale using four-band infrared imaging to gather information for the California Department of Water Resources were conducted in 2018. Using those same images, Eagle Aerial is generating detailed information for PWD residential parcels to use as part of the Rate Study. This helps ensure customers’ water allocations are accurate and equitable in the calculation of their water bills.
1. Why does PWD use a “water budget tiered” rate structure?
A water budget structure allows customers to know what an efficient allocation of water is from month to month. The allocation is based on the specific characteristics of each household. This rate design has been proven by university studies to be more fair and transparent to customers and shows the charges for the actual costs to purchase, pump, treat and deliver water.
2. How is my water budget, or allocation, determined?
Each customer’s allocation is based on the number of people in the residence, the size of the irrigable outdoor landscape, weather, and efficiency standards for indoor and outdoor use adopted by the state of California. Allocations change with the weather, and PWD customers can request water allocation variances for additional residents, medical needs, horses, etc.