LA WATCHDOG - Mayor Eric Garcetti’s failure to make tough decisions about increases in our water, power, trash, and sewer charges will require our newly elected Mayor Karen Bass to implement unpopular rate adjustments that will result in hefty increases in our bimonthly DWP bills.
According to insiders, DWP will be asking for a one-year rate increase. This will give our new mayor and her staff, the City Council, the politically appointed Board of Water and Power Commissioners, and the Ratepayers Advocate more time to review and analyze a subsequent multiyear increase.
Over the next 12 years, our average power rates are expected to triple as the Department plans to be powered by 100% renewables. But this is before determining the actual rates by tier and before social engineering, both of which will result in significant cost shifting onto homeowners and commercial ratepayers.
The Department also has an aggressive plan to address its aging power infrastructure and another plan to upgrade its local distribution system that will be able to accommodate the electrification of the City’s transportation (EVs) and building sectors. These two plans will require over $50 billion. This compares to annual power system revenues of less than $5 billion.
Likewise, our water rates are expected to balloon given the current water shortages (even after taking into account the recent downpours), the higher rates charged by the Metropolitan Water District that relies on the Colorado River and the Bay Delta, the demand for infrastructure improvements, and the $8 billion program at Hyperion to recycle wastewater into drinking water.
Our monthly trash fee for single family homes of $36.22 has not been increased since 2008 despite rising costs of labor and equipment. If this fee were increased at the rate of the Consumer Price Index, the fee would be over $50 per month.
Furthermore, because of an unfunded mandate from the state, the City is in the process of implementing a curbside composting program that will divert methane causing organic materials from landfills. While the cost of this program has not been determined, it will result the need for an additional increase in our trash fee.
Our sewer fees will also be increasing because of the need to maintain the infrastructure, meet even more environmental mandates, and to begin a more rigorous stormwater capture program. Furthermore, the last rate increase of 6.5% was in 2020, meaning there will be pressure for a catchup component.
The Department of Water and Power and the City need to update us on the expected increases in our water, power, trash, and sewer rates and why they are necessary. But one thing is for certain, hold onto your wallets.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: [email protected].)