Apr 24, 2020
On Tuesday, April 21, 2020 the Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors unanimously approved a $59-million Water Transmission system budget for 2020-21. The budget includes a 5.3-percent rate increase in wholesale water rates for Santa Rosa and Petaluma aqueduct customers and a 5.57-percent increase for Sonoma aqueduct customers, which will result in an estimated 2-percent increase for households and businesses served by Sonoma Water.
For example, a typical Santa Rosa household will pay an additional $0.96 per month as a direct result of the increase in the Water Agency’s wholesale rate increase, or an overall increase of about $11.50 per year. Sonoma Water’s wholesale rates are only a portion of the overall rates set by its retail customers (cities and water districts), and rates for retail customers will vary among those cities and water districts.
“We are painfully aware of the financial strain many residents are feeling due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic outfall from that,” said Board Chair Susan Gorin. “This is a prudent rate increase that takes into account the current health emergency and still provides funding to maintain and operate our critical water supply infrastructure. During a pandemic or other emergency, we must be able to rely on our water delivery system and funding ongoing critical projects is essential to provide that assurance.”
In 2019, the Sonoma County Civil Grand Jury investigated the risk of a major earthquake in Sonoma County and the effect that it could have on residents, due to impacts on water supplies. In direct response to the Grand Jury’s recommendations, Sonoma Water prepared a $59 million water transmission system budget that will help fund critical infrastructure improvement projects, including construction of three earthquake hazard mitigation projects: the Russian River, Mark West Creek, and Santa Rosa Creek pipeline crossings.
“These projects are critical for Sonoma Water to prepare for earthquakes, just as we prepare for any other natural disaster,” said Gorin. “We are working closely with our water retailers, and they are working closely with their customers during this health emergency. These rate increases were not arrived at in a vacuum. We had widespread support among our water contractors, who have input into developing these budgets.”
The Grand Jury Report acknowledged that Sonoma Water and its water contractors maintain a well-designed system and have made significant progress in mitigating earthquake risks, while ongoing efforts are needed to reduce remaining risks. The Grand Jury also noted that ongoing capital improvements are being made while Sonoma Water continues to keep rates low compared to other California water agencies.
The water transmission budget includes costs associated with operating, maintaining and funding nearly 100 miles of water supply pipelines, pumps and storage facilities that provide drinking water to more than 600,000 residents in portions of Sonoma and Marin counties. The budget also includes those costs associated with implementing critical habitat restoration and fishery recovery efforts within the Russian River Watershed as required by the Russian River Biological Opinion. Other budgeted maintenance projects include the recoating of interior and exterior surfaces of water tanks, and replacement of the cathodic protection system to prevent pipeline corrosion.
Wholesale water rates will increase based on the aqueduct in which a city receives its water, as noted below:
• 5.3 percent for Santa Rosa and Petaluma aqueduct contractors, which includes the cities of Santa Rosa, Town of Windsor, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, and Cotati
• 5.57 percent for Sonoma aqueduct contractors, which includes the city of Sonoma and the Valley of the Moon Water District. This rate is slightly higher than the above aqueducts to help pay down costs associated specifically with this aqueduct.
• 5.17 percent for the Marin Municipal Water District
• 6.79 percent for the North Marin Water District
Wholesale water rates are created by using a calculation outlined under a legally binding agreement between Sonoma Water and its water contractors. This document, called the Restructured Agreement for Water Supply, requires Sonoma Water to set rates based on budgeted operations and maintenance costs and past water sales. For more information about wholesale water rates, please visit www.sonomawater.org
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The Sonoma Water provides water supply, flood protection and sanitation services for portions of Sonoma and Marin counties. Visit us on the Web at www.sonomawater.org
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