Ace Bermudas

Ace Bermudas and his sister Angelina Ybarra play in wetlands in Tomol Park created by heavy rains on Feb. 2. CVWD has now downgraded local drought conditions from Stage Two to Stage One.

At the May 22 Carpinteria Valley Water District (CVWD) meeting, board directors approved next fiscal year’s budget, including a 17 percent increase in capital investments to nearly $1 million. The board also authorized rate increases for average and high water use residents; rescinded 2015’s emergency drought ordinance; officially downgraded the district’s drought conditions from Stage Two to Stage One and lowered the district water use conservation goal from 20 percent to 15 percent.

Reporting on the district’s budgetary requests for fiscal year 2019-20, Assistant General Manager Norma Rosales noted that water sales are projected to rise some 150-acre feet, from 3,800 to 3,950. Fifty-four percent of district water is dedicated to agricultural users and 46 percent to municipal and industrial customers. The roughly $7.5 million operating budget saw an increase of just 0.3 percent, while debt service grew by 5 percent and capital improvements by 17 percent, rising some $135,000 to nearly $900,000. Capital expenditure in the upcoming year will focus on the Cater Treatment Plant as well as investments in transmission and distribution systems.

With the board in agreement on the district’s budgetary plans, attention turned to proposed increases in rates and charges. District staff proposed increases of roughly $2/month for average users consuming 9 hundred cubic feet (HCF), about 750 gallons, $4/month for high users averaging 24 HCF, and $18/month for agricultural high water users consuming 650 HCF each month. Director Korey Capozza sharply questioned the CVWD’s comparatively low rates for high water users and the small one-penny per HCF increase in agriculture rates. Agricultural users, who paid $1.94 per HCF this year and will pay $1.95 next, are exempt from water treatment and water quality expenses, and enjoy lower rates. “We are losing the financial incentives to be prudent about water use,” said Capozza, urging the board to consider increasing the premium on high water usage, in line with nearby districts, in order to better reflect conservation goals. Board President Polly Holcombe and Directors Case Van Wingerden and Shirley Johnson approved the board vote authorizing the rate increases, Resolution No. 1056, with Capozza abstaining.

District staff recommended officially downgrading drought conditions from Stage Two to Stage One. General Manager Bob McDonald presented data showing, he said, “several signs that the drought has broken.” Although groundwater basin reserves are still relatively low, the Cachuma reservoir has seen a significant recovery compared to pre-drought storage levels. McDonald credited conservation advances, including the reduction in per capita water use by 22 percent since 2013, but hastened to point out that “you don’t want to count your chickens before they hatch,” and that current low demand may eventually return to pre-2011 levels. The board voted unanimously to approve rescinding the May 13, 2015, Emergency Drought Ordinance, lowering the conservation goal from 20 percent to 15 percent and ending mandatory residential water use restrictions.

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