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Water rates likely to rise

Customers probably will foot most, or all, of the increase.

July 06, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com

Foothill Municipal Water District will continue cost-cutting measures intended to lighten the load on La Cañada Flintridge homeowners’ wallets, but it is unlikely those efforts will be enough to keep water rates from going up next year.

Because of very limited local groundwater supplies, retail water agencies in La Cañada Flintridge — Valley Water Co. and La Cañada Irrigation District, for example — import the vast majority of the city’s water through the Foothill Municipal Water District, a wholesale water distribution agency supplied by the regional Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Metropolitan, which pumps from the Sacramento Delta and the Colorado River, has raised its fees for agencies such as Foothill a record four times in the past four years. And 2012 will be no different, with another 7.5% increase already scheduled for January.

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Last year, Foothill carved a full-time staff position out of its annual budget and deferred infrastructure improvements in order to absorb the cost of a similar Metropolitan rate hike at the beginning of 2011.

Though Foothill’s recently approved 2011-2012 budget leaves much of those austerity measures in effect, Executive Director Nina Jazmadarian said the agency has no choice this time but to pass on the 2012 Metropolitan fee increase to local water retailers.

And although retail water agency boards have yet to determine how they will respond to Metropolitan rate hikes, the most likely outcome is that customers will foot all, or most of, the bill, said La Cañada Irrigation District General Manager Doug Caister.

“That’s basically the only way we can survive,” Caister said of his agency. “We buy over 90% of our water from Metropolitan through Foothill, and so whatever [charges] they pass on to us, we have to pass on to the consumer.”

Valley Water Company General Manager Bob Fan, whose agency imports 75% of its water, also said Metropolitan rate increases could result in higher water bills if Valley Water’s board sees no other option.

Crescenta Valley Water District, which serves parts of the city’s west end, has already announced rate increased of up to 25% over the next five years to accommodate Metropolitan rate increases while repairing aging infrastructure.

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