Water district holds public hearing; few attended
■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
Next year, Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) will begin implementing a multi-year effort to install automated meters, a move that is intended to improve customer service options, save on labor costs and minimize water loss.
On Nov. 15, EMWD held a public hearing at its district boardroom in Perris, where the Board of Directors considered changes to the water and sewer rate structures, and rates set forth.
Following a lengthy presentation reviewing a cost of service study which began about two years ago and was completed in March of this year, the water board unanimously adopted the new water and sewage rate structure.
“There is a change in methodology that customers are going to have to adapt to,” said EMWD Public Affairs Officer Kevin Pearson.
In 2017, the board authorized EMWD to install 44,000 meters as part of an accelerated installation plan for AMI, formally known as Automated Metering Infrastructure.
According to EMWD, the most significant advantage of AMI technology is that it provides a remote data link between the water district and the meter, ensuring real-time, precise monitoring. The meters also require less hands-on maintenance, resulting in fewer vehicle trips and cost savings on labor.
60 gallons per person per day
Each water budget is created based on a calculation of 60 gallons per person per day, times the number of days in the billing cycle. So a family of four would have a basic water budget of 7,200 gallons for a 30-day month. The new system will follow the same formula as far as indoor and outdoor budgets are calculated.
“But now we look at it as a cumulative number,” explained Pearson. “The first 20 percent of that cumulative number you use will be at the lowest price point. Basically, percentage 21 through 100 is going to be at the Tier Two price.”
For example, previously, Tier 1 was $1.90 throughout most of EMWD’s service area. Now, it’s at $1.03. Tier 2 was at $3.47, now it’s at $3.35.
Approximately 76,000 highly efficient devices have already been installed, which accounts for almost half of all of EMWD’s 151,299 existing meters.
Extremely low customer turnout at board meeting
Customers and property owners were invited to the public hearing on Nov. 15 to make comments regarding the proposed change, urged to submit letters and written protests beforehand, so the Board could address actual concerns from the public.
A notice was mailed at the end of September that detailed the upcoming rate changes to every customer within the district’s service area. The notice also announced the public hearing that would discuss the new rate changes, and urged the public to attend to address their concerns.
According to Pearson, only three out of the 805,000 people EMWD serves attended the public hearing, and preferred to discuss the new smart meters rather than the actual water rates.
“If anyone sees any changes in their bill, it’s going to be extremely minimal,” said Pearson, who added there will really only be about a $3 change projected in a customer’s average bill. “We have a lot of customers who may actually see a reduction in their bill as well.”
Pearson explains EMWD’s decision was made because about 20 percent of their drinking water supplies are groundwater, which has the lowest price point. The board was able to reduce the cost per billing unit for their customers across the board.
“At the end of the day, the price per billing has been reduced pretty significantly,” explained Pearson. “Our agency and our board have always been of the mindset to do very, very minimal rate increases. Whether it’s every year or every other year, as opposed to waiting 8 or 10 years, and doing a drastic rate spike.”