The Metropolitan Water District approved a rate increase Tuesday that will cost an average Southern California household about $1.31 a month.
MWD officials said this year's drought-ending rains have helped, eliminating the district's need to buy water from special sources to supply the Southland's growing number of consumers.
But officials said the rate increase--the first in more than seven years--is still needed to offset increased operating, bond retirement, debt reduction and capital improvement costs, including the construction of the vast Domenigoni Valley Reservoir near Hemet.
The increase approved by the MWD board of directors will raise the price of untreated water sold by the district to its 27 member agencies in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties from $269 per acre-foot to $318 per acre-foot. An acre foot is about 325,000 gallons of water.
Last fall, when the estimates were first drawn up and the drought was still a reality, MWD officials thought the new rate would have to be $10 more, or $328 an acre-foot, to cover the cost of buying extra water.
"Now it looks like we have enough," Becker said.
How much the rate increase will cost individual consumers will depend largely on where they live, district officials said.
In cities such as Beverly Hills and Burbank, which get all of their water from the MWD, the increase will average about $2.63 per household. In cities in the upper San Gabriel Valley, which get only about 5% of their water from the MWD, the increase will average about 13 cents.
In Los Angeles, which has recently been getting about 45% of its water from the MWD, the increase will average $1.21. Los Angeles gets the rest of its water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct and wells that tap the water table beneath the city.
Becker said the weather over the last decade has cost the district a lot of money.
"When there was heavy rain in the early '80s, there was an ample supply, but no demand," he said. "In the late '80s and 1990, the drought was even worse than we expected. There was demand, but no supply. In both cases, sales were low."
As a consequence, Becker said, the district has been operating at a deficit the last few years. He said part of the increase will be used to recover those losses.
The $1.5-billion Domenigoni Valley Reservoir, a water storage facility being built in the hills south of Hemet in Riverside County, is a major expense for the MWD. The reservoir, which will hold about 260 billion gallons, will almost double the surface storage capacity in Southern California.
Earth-filled dams will be built at each end of the valley to create a 4,500-acre storage basin. The 2.2-mile eastern dam and 1.8-mile western dam, along with a much smaller saddle dam across a low spot in the hills along the north side of the valley, will contain more than 84 million cubic yards of dirt, clay and rock.
Preliminary construction is scheduled to begin this year with the bulk of the earth-moving to start in 1995, officials said. They expect the project to be completed in 1999. The lake will be filled with water from the Colorado River Aqueduct and the State Water Project aqueduct.