Wednesday, January 17, 2007

SID changes water rate system

January 17, 2007

SID changes water rate system

By Barry Eberling

VACAVILLE - Farmers, rural residents and others who get their water from the Solano Irrigation District will see their rates change over the coming three years.

How big the change is depends on their particular situation. The district is raising rates 4 percent in both 2008 and 2009. But it's also restructuring the rate system for various customer types, phasing in those changes over three years.

So district customers over the coming three years will see a blend of the phased restructuring and the rate increases. Some will end up paying more, some less.

The SID board approved the changes at its Monday meeting.

SID delivers water from Lake Berryessa reservoir to about 1,900 customers. Most of them are farmers, though the district also serves various rural communities.

Suisun Valley farmers will see the newly adopted blend of restructuring and rate increases lead to a 55 percent rise in water prices over three years. When it's over, rates will have risen from $20.46 per acre-foot today to $31.73 in January 2009.

Farmers in the Dixon area will be affected differently by the restructuring. One reason is SID can deliver water cheaper there because it doesn't need pumps to lift water to a higher elevation. Gravity can do the job.

Over three years, rates for Dixon farmers will rise from $17.15 per acre-foot to $19.04 by January 2009.

The district restructured its rates because it had 40 classes of water users created over some four decades. It shrunk this to 14. Under the new system, SID looks at the cost to serve water to each group.

Meanwhile, the 4 percent rate increases in 2008 and 2009 apply to all customers. The reason for the hike is to meet operating expenses, as opposed to needing extra money to embark on a big building program.

"Our financial plan shows our expenses are going up and our revenues are decreasing," SID General Manager Suzanne Butterfield said Tuesday.

One major decrease is SID as of this year no longer receives $1.3 million annually for selling water to Fairfield. SID and the city updated the 1974 agreement in 2001. The district decided to take more money upfront, rather than keep getting smaller amounts of money in coming years.

"We needed it for operations and maintenance," Butterfield said. "But our 10-year financial plan projected that. We knew we would be running out of Fairfield money."

The district held three workshops on the rate changes. Butterfield said nobody showed up for the Dixon workshop, one person for the Green Valley workshop and 15 for the Vacaville workshop. About a dozen people attended Monday's meeting when the SID board voted.

SID received 16 letters of protest over the rate increase. It would take 2,186 protests - representing half of the parcels served by the district, plus one - to overturn the rate restructuring and increases, Butterfield said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

Examples of SID Water Rate Changes<\b>

-- Suisun Valley farmers will see rates rise from $20.46 an acre-foot to $24.22 after March, $27.98 in January 2008 and $31.73 in January 2009.

-- Dixon area farmers will see rates rise from $17.15 an acre-foot to $17.60 in March, $18.31 in January 2008 and $19.04 in January 2009.

-- Tolenas irrigation water flat rates will rise from $54.35 per acre to $56.33 in March, $58.58 in January 2008 and $60.93 in January 2009.

-- Tolenas drinking water rates are $24.21 bimonthly for up to 7,480 gallons. The new charge will be 53 cents per 748 gallons starting in March, 48 cents in January 2008 and 42 cents in January 2009.

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