Palo Alto's water rates set to rise again | March 30, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 30, 2012

Palo Alto's water rates set to rise again

City considers hiking residential water rates by 15 percent

Palo Alto's residential water rates would go up by 15 percent in July under a new proposal by the Utilities Department.

The proposed rate increase aims to address projected revenue shortfalls in the city's water operation, deficits that are driven largely by the rising cost of purchasing water wholesale. The city buys its water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), which is in the midst of upgrading the Hetch Hetchy water system that supplies water to Palo Alto and other members of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.

The multi-year effort to upgrade the system is being funded by all the agencies that rely on the SFPUC for water, including Palo Alto. For local ratepayers, this has resulted in annual rate hikes, including the 12.5 percent increase that went into effect in Palo Alto Oct. 1.

According to a new report from the Utilities Department, the city's Water Fund faces a projected $1 million increase in the cost of purchasing water in fiscal year 2012 (which begins in July), as well as an $800,000 increase in operations costs and a $1.6 million increase in capital costs.

The new proposed rate increase would add $8.54 to a typical residential monthly water bill, according to the report. It would go into effect July 1, pending City Council approval. It would add $4.7 million in revenues to the city's water fund in fiscal year 2013 and help close a projected deficit of $5.6 million. The remainder of the funding gap would be covered by drawing $900,000 from a reserve fund.

— Gennady Sheyner


Posted by rem, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 28, 2012 at 11:08 am

rem is a registered user.

!@#! $%# %%^$ %% &$%#% @% @ !!!! I believe that all I have to say!!!

Posted by Give us a break, a resident of Monroe Park
on Mar 28, 2012 at 11:20 am

During the worst economic downturn we have witnessed in our lifetimes, politicians and planning commissions believe the populace can live with hugely increasing prices hikes on just about everything under the sun on a regular basis. I would like to meet a "typical" Palo Alto water user, as my neighbors and I have seen astronomical increases in the price of water over the last few years, and apparently, this is going to continue in perpetuity. Would that my bill was only going to increase by $8.54!

Posted by Ray, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 28, 2012 at 11:23 am

You forgot ##(&*%$!

Posted by Ernesto USMC, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 28, 2012 at 11:27 am

The Utility Users Tax flows directly into the general fund, and is used to pay bloated salaries, pensions, and fund pet projects.

The tax needs to be repealed immediately, because as it stands, our supposed representatives, the city council, is incentivized to allow utility rates to increase as much as possible, as rate increases serve as a backdoor tax increase.

This is a structural form of corruption that must be addressed.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Not everyone in Palo Alto is a transplanted trillionaire or a pending dot-com zillionaire... what about those living on (minimal) social security? After working for many years, old people (especially women) are left with lifeline phone service and utility rate assistance (on gas and electricity only) plus a few medical benefits. Where are they going to get money to pay all these rate increases? Or, should they simply develop more interesting recipes using cat food and dandelion greens???

Posted by Tire-of-Being-Insulted-By-The-PAU, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I'm tired of the City (the PAU in this case) using arcane units, such as CCF (Hundred Cubic Feet) as the measure of usage. All of us understand gallons, not CCF!

The following is the conversion equation:

CCF * 748 = gallons

How hard would it be to add a column to the pricing charts to provide the residents, and rate payers, with meaningful information? Given how ghastly expensive things are becoming in this town, don't people have a right to be treated with some respect?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Once again, no, no, no, no, no.

Posted by DDee, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Instead of raising everyone's rate, why not add a surtax to new service (at newly built or significantly enlarged homes); swimming pool owners; spa owners; owners of golf course-sized lawns?

You could set the tax per bathroom or something, so that the regular 1 to 2.5 bathrooms that are the predominant number are at the current rate, and people who feel the need or have created the residential space for more would be charged at a higher rate.... in other words, do not punish and create hardship for the residents who already are having to stretch their budgets to accomodate a couple of other new rate increases, but only those whose behavior indicates that they can meet this new obligation with irritation perhaps, but without having to drop something equally as necessary as water to live.

OR, and this is just a mind-meandering question... Could it be that some, perhaps unspoken, mindset has taken over the city that subconsciously WANTS to drive the older, the poorer, the less affluent residents out?

Frankly, that is what is feels like on the receiving end these days.

Posted by PA resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm

I wonder how much of the budget shortfall is due to pension and benefits? What would City Council members do? Cut their own benefits? NOt a chance!

Posted by Pat B., a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Here we go again. They will never tell you the truth!

Posted by SuperD, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm

This 'rate raising' seems to be a reoccurring theme this past year or so. And it is getting old. Time to start running this city like a business and quit passing inefficiencies and mismanagement costs onto the residents.

Posted by Debra Katz, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I am the City Utilities Communications Manager. For those readers who might want a deeper understanding about the factors affecting water, sewer, gas and electric rates, we have a web page with this kind of detail as well as an overview of what exactly you get for the dollars spent on your utilities. Rate changes for each utility are discussed. (Visit and you will see links to this information.)

In the case of water in particular, it's worth noting that the proposed rates not only cover Palo Alto's share of the costs for the upgrades to the Hetch-Hetchy water system, but also cover projects like our local emergency supply system rehabilitation. The latter will be a huge benefit to everyone in the event of a major disaster that even temporarily cuts us off from the Hetch-hetchy supply.

The next step for the water and sewer rate proposals will be revision (in consideration of input from the Utilities Advisory Commission) and then presentation to the City Council Finance Committee on April 18th. Revised versions will be posted to the website when available, which should be shortly before the Finance Committee meeting.

Posted by Carlito Waysman, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Mss Katz said: " it's worth noting that the proposed rates not only cover Palo Alto's share of the costs for the upgrades to the Hetch-Hetchy water system, but also cover projects like our local emergency supply system rehabilitation."

In the event of a major disaster most likely all the ancient infrastructure that Palo Alto has, is going to be gone for good. The residents would do with their own water and food supplies stored at home or in their cars. The City Council fancy pet project named "local emergency supply system rehabilitation" is just smokes and mirrors and a good excuse to throw away Palo Altans tax money.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The bottom line the public infrastructure supporting the water delivery as well as other public services in the city is ancient and most likely is not going to survive a major disaster. The Blind City Council spending priorities are a lil bit off.

Posted by Give us a break, a resident of Monroe Park
on Mar 29, 2012 at 5:36 pm

I can't afford 35 percent increases in the water rate on a yearly basis, which is what seems to be in store for "heavy" water users, so reading all the benefits I am getting from paying exorbitant rates for utilities is of no real interest to me. I also somehow don't trust that ALL pertinent factors are going to be included on the web page. Utility users understand water is a scarce resource, but they also understand political factors, increasing operating costs and pensions, and revenue enhancement as considerations which will not be fully addressed in anything Palo Alto Utilities communicates.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2012 at 9:20 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The heck with water. I'm drinking straight from now on.

Posted by Give us a break, a resident of Monroe Park
on Mar 30, 2012 at 10:00 am

Cheers to you, Mr. Wallis! That actually might be a good remedy for all of this.

Posted by Michaelquiek, a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Jun 5, 2017 at 10:53 pm

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