Residents of Turlock may be paying more for their water.
A lot more.
The City of Turlock has lost around $900,000 in revenue based on the current water rate structure, according to the results of a 100 page water study performed by Nevada-based company Municipal Financial Services.
In light of these losses, and in an attempt to make the city’s water situation more sustainable, city staff have recommended that the city adopt a new rate structure that would take into account the use of both groundwater and surface water from the Tuolumne River.
“Right now, we’re using only groundwater and that is a resource that is diminishing,” said Michael Cooke, deputy director of Municipal Services for the City of Turlock. “Future growth is contingent on finding a water supply.”
Last year, the city pumped 5.5 billion gallons of water from the underground aquifer. Once that number reaches 8 billion, a single source of water will no longer be sufficient.
The adoption of surface water use, however, would come with a high price for the city’s residents, businesses and industries.
According to the new rate structure, the average single family can expect their monthly bill to increase from $25 in 2013 to $95 in 2023, equating to a 280 percent increase over the next 10 years.
High use industrial water users would face a similar 10 year rate increase of 288 percent.
“We’re not going to sugar coat it,” said Tom Pavletic, a spokesperson for Municipal Financial Services. “The impact will be significant.”
Despite the large increase in fees, council member Forrest White argued that the new rate structure is necessary in maintaining the future of Turlock’s economy. White compared the new water rate structure to the former investment into the city’s Westside Industrial Park. He stated that without the additional use of surface water, larger companies would be deterred from entering the city.
“If we don't do anything now, future councils will say what were we thinking,” said White.
Along with having some of the lowest water rates in region, with an average price of $25 per single family use, Turlock also has some of the lowest operating costs in the region as well — with an average price of $290 per service connection for the city. Comparative jurisdictions had operating costs between $345 and $570 per service connection.
Jose Hernandez, a new Turlock resident, said one of the factors that prompted his move to the city was the presence of its uniquely low water rates.
“The currents rates are very low and it’s hard to imagine that they will be that high in 2013,” said Hernandez. “I’ve never seen something go so high in such a short time.”
Although the council will not be immediately taking action, Mayor John Lazar stated that the issue needs to be addressed soon, and the importance of water is something that should not be undermined.
“We seem to take water for granted,” said Lazar. “It is a critical issue for Turlock.”