Calling it the most “severe drought in California’s history”, three of the largest Bay Area water agencies are ready to increase water rates. Following a continued depletion of groundwater supplies, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission are all proposing rate increases up to 30 percent. Combined these water agencies serve approximately 5.8 million people or about 80 percent of the Bay Area’s population.
This announcement by Bay Area Water authorities comes despite significant gains in water conservation, which in many ways, further exacerbates revenue loss by the water providers. The largest Bay Area water agency, the San Francisco PUC, has announced plans to increase rates by 32 percent this year. The massive rate increase will be used to offset the more than $25 million in lost water sales after residents cut water use by 11 percent last year.
The primary factor driving this rate increase has much more to do with capturing the full cost of water, however. Despite water supply challenges, much of California has historically seen low water and sewer rates compared to the East Coast. Now that water supply is at all-time lows, municipalities are finally being forced to increase the value associated with water. As groundwater and reservoirs continue to dry up, municipal water authorities are being forced to import much more water, which comes at a higher cost. According to a report by the San Jose Mercury News, all three of the above water agencies are spending millions of dollars to purchase water from a Southern California water bank.
”We don’t want to raise water rates,” says Beau Goldie, CEO of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, “but our job is to make sure there is enough clean safe, water to sustain the economy. We can’t control the drought.” Although higher water rates will be a burden to many Bay Area residents, there are some that believe higher rates will have an upside – forcing a shift in consumer mindset and forcing the remaining water-wasting residents to reduce their water consumption.
“People have to wake up and understand that their actions have a cost,” Patricia Zuker, a Walnut Creek resident said after hearing of the proposed rate hikes. “Sometimes that means charging them more. Some people won’t get it otherwise.”
 Forestieri, Mountain View Voice, “Water District Set for Big Rate Increase, Thanks to Drought.”, http://www.mv-voice.com/print/story/2015/03/06/water-district-set-for-big-rate-increase-thanks-to-drought
 Roger and Urton, San Jose Mercury News, “California drought: Big water rate hikes considered by bay Area agencies.”, http://www.mercurynews.com/science/ci_27668436/california-drought-bay-area-water-agencies-considering-big